Has anyone else noticed that the stamps released thus far by the United States Postal Service reflect a clear bias? Perhaps it should come as no surprise that an agency of the federal government would favor the United States during the Civil War. Next month the USPS’s Forever stamp marking the 150th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg will be released. It is based on Thure de Thulstrup’s 1887 chromolithograph and once again depicts the Union line as opposed to the more popular Confederate perspective on July 3.
First things first. Thanks to all of you who emailed yesterday to share your concerns about our safety in light of the attacks that took place here in Boston. My wife and I have lived in Boston for close to two years. After watching the response of our community to yesterday’s tragic events, I can honestly say that there is no other place I would rather live. I love this city.
Well, I guess you have to give the guy credit for taking the time yesterday to visit Howard University and engage students in a little politics and history. I was particularly interested in the latter. One of the problems that Senator Paul ran into was his insistence on giving the student body a history lesson, but even worse was that the history itself was fundamentally flawed. Senator Paul attempted to draw a straight line from the modern Republican Party to Lincoln and the party that ended slavery and passed the Reconstruction Amendments. The guiding question throughout was why black Americans to not identify with the Republican Party given its history. All of the roadblocks, according to Paul, were instituted by Democrats. No mention of Nixon’s Southern Strategy or Lee Atwater’s work on using race as a political wedge or even Ronald Reagan’s famous references to “welfare queens” and his embrace of “states’ rights” while campaigning in Philadelphia, Mississippi.
I always get a question in class when we get to the first political parties in the 1790s inquiring about modern connections. I do my best to explain that while many of the issues that Americans debated remain consistent the parties themselves have evolved over time.
Paul’s collapse of the past 150 years constitutes not only a superficial understanding of American history, but a false Civil War Memory. Take a look for yourself.
This weekend I am attending a conference hosted by the Massachusetts Historical Society called “Massachusetts and the Civil War: The Commonwealth and National Disunion.” Last night John Stauffer gave the keynote address on abolitionism in the Bay State and today I attended three panels. The range of topics discussed is really quite impressive. I especially enjoyed Jim Downs’s discussion of the health challenges faced by newly freed slaves during the war as well as his thoughts about how all of this challenges our triumphalist narrative of the Civil War. I also enjoyed Katy Meir’s analysis of the U. S. Sanitary Commission and Megan Kate Nelson’s paper on soldiers as tourists. [Stay tuned for an announcement regarding a project that Megan and I will begin working on together in the very near future.]
Tomorrow we will finish up with three more panels, including two that include papers on historical memory by Barbara Gannon and Kanisorn Wongsrichanalai. What is striking, however, is that this conference does not include one paper on military history. An outsider attending this conference would have little sense that this event included four years of horrific violence. There is little sense that the men from Massachusetts ever fired a shot in the Civil War. Of course, I am not the first person to make this observation about the place of military history in academia, but it is quite striking nevertheless. The closest we get to a Civil War general is George McClellan’s 1863 visit to Boston. I certainly don’t mean in any way to diminish the quality of the presentations that I’ve heard over the past two days. As I said, I’ve learned quite a bit and I suspect that we will see many of these papers published at some point.
Once again, the courts have supported the right of school districts to ban students from wearing clothing that includes the Confederate flag. The most recent case involved a school district in South Carolina in which a student repeatedly clashed with school administrators over a number of t-shirts that likely were purchased at a local Dixie Outfitters, including “Southern Chicks,” “Dixie Angels,” “Southern Girls,” and “Daddy’s Little Redneck.”
Hardwick also sought to wear a shirt labeled “Black Confederates,” honoring a Louisiana Civil War regiment made up of free African-Americans. She also tried to wear shirts she characterized as protests of censorship of the others, with slogans such as “Jesus and the Confederate Battle Flag: Banned from Our Schools but Forever in Our Hearts,” and “Offended by School Censorship of Southern Heritage.”
This is nothing more than a case of bad parenting.