Charlottesville, Virginia No Longer Celebrates Lee-Jackson Day

As of this evening my old home of Charlottesville, Virginia no longer celebrates Lee-Jackson Day. The city joins other communities throughout the Commonwealth that no longer publicly acknowledge this holiday.

The vote is not so much a declaration that Lee and Jackson no longer deserve the kind of reverence they once received, but a confirmation that the community crossed this line at some point in the past. Representatives of the city’s chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans had every opportunity to voice their displeasure and chose not to do so. This paid city holiday will likely be rolled into one honoring all veterans. That leaves room for those who wish to single out Lee and Jackson or anyone else for that matter.

Looks like Susan Hathaway of the Virginia Flaggers attended tonight’s meeting to make a last-minute plea.

We should celebrate a city that allows people from outside the community to voice their opinion. It is unlikely that city councilors gave much thought to Hathaway and the other members of the group who attended the previous meeting. The group plans to find private property to raise one of their flags as a snub to the community. That is their right. It’s nothing more than an indication that their message has once again failed.

The only question that remains unanswered is whether cities like Charlottesville can find productive ways for members of the community to engage one another around such sensitive questions of how their collective past ought to be remembered.

Virginia Flaggers Surrender Charlottesville

Virginia FlaggersIt was so predictable. Even the anticipation of a city council vote on March 2 regarding whether to continue to recognize Lee-Jackson Day has the Virginia Flaggers scrambling for a plot of land to raise when of their Confederate flags. It’s their usual signal of surrender when decisions by local communities don’t go their way.

I’ve never understood this preoccupation with raising flags on highways and in other places that provide absolutely no historical context whatsoever. How exactly is a passerby suppose to know that this particular flag is meant to be interpreted in a certain way? Are the Flaggers oblivious to the fact that the flag is fraught with competing interpretations? For the sake of getting their message across to the general public, why wouldn’t they choose a form of commemoration that is less likely to be misunderstood? Continue reading “Virginia Flaggers Surrender Charlottesville”

What Does This Have To Do With Confederate Heritage?

Update: You can watch the public debate in its entirety, including Karen Cooper’s public address in its entirety following the opening remarks and two speakers. It really is quite a performance. Susan Hathaway follows Cooper. Hathaway frames her argument around the importance of honoring veterans. I find it interesting that neither speaker mentions references their association with the Virginia Flaggers. The speaker that followed Hathaway, however, does identify himself as a Flagger and even goes as far as to threaten the city council.

I’ve always been interested in how our beliefs about the past are weaved through our understanding of the present. All of us are influenced by our personal values and assumptions concerning a wide range of issues from politics to personal background. It is with this in mind that I find Confederate heritage groups such as the Virginia Flaggers to be so interesting and, at times, worthy of our attention.

Last night my old home of Charlottesville, Virginia held a community meeting to discuss whether the annual recognition of Lee-Jackson Day ought to continue. I wish I could have been there to listen and even participate. Charlottesville was a wonderful place to teach the Civil War and Civil War memory. The city includes a wonderful Confederate cemetery adjacent to the UVA campus and the downtown area features two parks named in honor of Lee and Jackson. Both include impressive equestrian monuments. Continue reading “What Does This Have To Do With Confederate Heritage?”

Black Confederates in the Journal of the Civil War Era

Looks like the latest issue of The Journal of the Civil War Era is being mailed to subscribers. The Professional Notes section features my essay, “Black Confederates Out of the Attic and Into the Mainstream,” which briefly explores the evolution of the myth, its diffusion on the Internet, and why academic and public historians ought to care. Even if is the case that the number of news stories has peaked it is still out there on hundreds, if not thousands, of websites waiting for the next poorly conducted search.

Thanks to Aaron Sheehan-Dean for the invitation to contribute to the journal. I am thrilled to finally see it in print. Those of you with access to Project Muse can read it online.

What Passes For Civil War History at Liberty University

Three history professors from Liberty University in Virginia share their thoughts about the causes and legacies of our civil war. According to the department chair the Civil War is best understood as a “civilizational conflict” or “culture war.” Professor Jones acknowledges the centrality of slavery as a cause of the war and highlights its destruction,  but cautions the viewer that Americans are fast becoming “slaves” of the federal government. Finally, Professor Ritchie reduces the war down to sectional differences and the importance of money to social advancement in the North. Yeah, someone should give him a copy of Edward Baptist’s new book. Turns out that plenty of people in the South cared a great deal about money.

This is just all around really bad.

[Uploaded to Vimeo on October 28, 2014]