Confederate Memorial Day Under Assault in the Heart of the Confederacy

The other day I solicited your thoughts about the winners and losers of the Civil War sesquicentennial. The post generated a very helpful discussion, which I very much appreciate. One thing is clear: the Lost Cause narrative of our war is on the defensive and will likely continue to be the case as we move forward. There are any number of places that you can look for evidence of this development from city councils distancing themselves from publicly acknowledging certain holidays to refusing to display the Confederate flag in public places.

This pressure is not emanating from outside Southern communities, but from within. It’s a community that includes new transplants from other parts of the country and beyond, but it also includes individuals who can claim direct ancestors from the war. It’s an organic process that has nothing to do with erasing the past and everything to do with clarifying how a community draws meaning from the past. Continue reading “Confederate Memorial Day Under Assault in the Heart of the Confederacy”

Winners and Losers of the Sesquicentennial

I am in the process of going through old posts in preparation for an essay on the Civil War sesquicentennial. I’ve identified a number of themes that I will explore as I try to place the past few years within a broader context stretching back to the Civil War centennial.

Here is your chance to offer some thoughts about what we’ve experienced since 2011. Who or what do you think were the big winners and losers of the Civil War sesquicentennial? You can be as specific or as broad as you choose. You can identify individuals (past or present), organizations, events and even historical themes/narratives. Feel free to be as creative as you want in formulating your response.

For example, in my opinion one of the big winners of the 150th was the history and memory of the United States Colored Troops. On the other hand, the clear loser was the veneration for and display of the Confederate flag.

So, what do you think?

Are Texas Confederates Heroes?

This week the Texas House Committee on Culture, Tourism and Recreation held a public forum on legislation that would remove “Confederate Heroes Day” and create a new holiday called, “Civil War Remembrance Day.” The sponsor of the bill is Jacob Hale, an eighth grader in Austin, who convinced his local representative to sponsor the bill. Coverage of the bill’s public discussion begins at the 2:42:50 mark.

While a few supporters of the bill spoke out that vast majority of people in attendance took a stand against it. What is so striking is that while the bill and at least the stated intent by the bill’s sponsor do not revolve around a concern over slavery, practically every speaker brought it up. The position against the bill turned into a collective attempt to get Confederates right on the issue of slavery. It was an admittance of the centrality of slavery and in the case of Texas they are absolutely right on target. Continue reading “Are Texas Confederates Heroes?”

The Death Knell of Confederate Heritage

Despite Politico’s recent claim that “the Confederacy Still Lives” it is, in fact, in full retreat. Confederate flags are being removed from public places and holidays honoring Confederate generals are being revised or removed from the calendars. It is a process that will continue as each new generation moves further away from the history itself and is able to re-assess its legacy.

That is exactly what is happening this week in Texas surrounding a proposal to re-name and move ‘Confederate Heroes Day.’ The proposal is the work of an Austin eighth grader by the name of Jacob Hale. Hale believes that the current holiday does an injustice to his states unionists. He proposes to re-name the holiday to ‘Civil War Remembrance Day‘ and move it to May. Continue reading “The Death Knell of Confederate Heritage”

Will the Real Appomattox Commemoration Please Stand Up

This morning I set out to write a post in response to Jamelle Bouie’s column at Slate which details his assessment of a commemoration of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House. A few of you likely read it before I took it down. I had some strong words for the author that turned out to be completely unjustified and I want to take this opportunity to apologize to Mr. Bouie. I could not understand how he arrived at his conclusions after claiming to have attended the event, but what I didn’t understand is that there were two commemorations of Appomattox and apparently they offered two very different narratives.

Bouie attended an event organized by the Appomattox County Historical Society and featured primarily reenactors. The author noted the lack of references to slavery and the presence of USCTs in the Army of the James, which helped to prevent Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia from reaching Lynchburg.

But missing in this remembrance, and in the audience as well, were black Americans. Of the thousands of re-enactors and thousands more spectators, only a handful were black. And while this may seem minor (or worse, a needless invocation of race), it’s a terrible disadvantage. The real Appomattox wasn’t just about reunion; it was about emancipation as well.

I am not surprised that this is what Bouie experienced given the focus of the event, but I do wish that the author had resisted the urge to draw a conclusion about the sesquicentennial based on this one event. In fact, if he had attended the National Park Service’s 3-day commemoration Bouie would have witnessed a very different commemoration. Continue reading “Will the Real Appomattox Commemoration Please Stand Up”