What It Comes Down To For Waite Rawls

Back in November Waite Rawls and Christy Coleman announced a planned merger between Richmond’s Museum of the Confederacy and American Civil War Center. In an interview with Civil War News Rawls discussed what it means for the MOC and alluded to some of the controversy surrounding the decision:

“Will all our members support what we do in the future? No,” Rawls said. “Will some object? Yes.”  “Will many more think it is great? Yes.” Rawls continued, “We have 5,000 members. My purpose as an entity is not to satisfy the least common denominator, but to do what is the best long-term good for the entirety. That’s what the CWH board will do.” “For the folks who say, ‘We wish you were only Confederate,’ we have bigger sights in mind,” he said. “We think we can do a better job educating people about the Confederacy if we tell the whole story of the Civil War.”

Using the analogy of preserving a Civil War battlefield, Rawls asked rhetorically, “How good a job would we do if we only preserved the Confederate half of it?” Noting that heritage groups like the Sons of Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy have a different purpose than a museum, Rawls said, “Their mission is to honor their ancestors. Our mission is to use this collection to educate the public.” He acknowledged, “The heritage groups would like us to be a heritage group, but we’re not.”  “People who walk in the front door may not know which century [the Civil War] happened in,” according to Rawls. “Their ancestor may have fought in a civil war in Ireland or Thailand.” He mentioned a Japanese-American man interviewed on PBS who said he didn’t understand America until he watched the Ken Burns Civil War series. “That’s a powerful thing. I want to influence people like that. That’s what this institution is for.”

“The Plantation Called New York City”

Here is Sanitation Department chaplain, Reverend Fred Lucas’s invocation at New York City Mayor de Blasio’s inauguration on January 1. I honestly don’t know what I think of it. Most of the commentary that I’ve read gives me very little to think about, though I did find Greg Downs’s opinion piece to be helpful. May use it as part of my Civil War Memory class, which I am teaching this semester.

Imagining Confederate Emancipation Then and Now

cleburne_webToday is the 150th anniversary of General Patrick Cleburne’s proposal to enlist slaves into the Confederate army. It’s an extraordinary document, in term of what it says and – in light of the continued influence of the black Confederate myth – what it does not say. The Civil War Trust has made the text of Cleburne’s proposal available with certain sections highlighted. If you don’t have the time stick to the highlights.

As many of you know 150 years ago citizens of the Confederacy were not aware that a high-ranking general had issued such a proposal because President Jefferson Davis ordered that it be suppressed. Cleburne’s proposal was not the first, but the military situation of the Confederacy and the widespread use of black men in the Union army gave it much more weight. Indeed by the middle of the year Confederates in the army and on the home front were debating various proposals. Most thought the idea was absurd and those who sanctioned it did so only as a means to stave off defeat. Continue reading “Imagining Confederate Emancipation Then and Now”

Welcome to 1864

This morning I was reminded that today is the first day of the sesquicentennial of the War in 1864. As I alluded to this past spring, it is going to be very interesting to see how the final sixteen months of the war will be commemorated and remembered. There are practical issues of funding, but there is also the turn that the war itself took in 1864. Those of us on the education/public history side of things will have to think long and hard about how we engage the public about some of the more important and challenging issues of the war. Continue reading “Welcome to 1864”