Category Archives: Lost Cause

The True Meaning of Lee-Jackson Day

Tomorrow is Lee-Jackson Day here in Virginia.  What that means for Virginians is a day off for many state employees.  [I am proud to work at a school where we have Monday off in honor of Martin Luther King.]  For the rest of us it should be a day without having to deal with parking meters.  Unless, of course, you live in the city of Norfolk.  It turns out last year the city continued to issue tickets to meter violators.  Luckily a local news channel pointed out the problem to the city, which promised to make the necessary corrections.  Let’s just hope that the city doesn’t make the same mistake this year and that all proud Virginians are able to embrace the true meaning of Lee-Jackson Day.

In all seriousness, I’ve never attended a Lee-Jackson Day event.  Perhaps it is time to head on over the Blue Ridge Mountains to Lexington for Saturday’s festivities.   It looks like the SCV has cooked up a real Lost Cause love fest.  Interestingly, a PBS affiliate will be filming a documentary on the history of Lee-Jackson Day.  That could be quite interesting.

Check out this interesting article on Lee, Jackson, and King from the Alexandria Times.

 

A Civil War Centennial Education

Over the past few days I’ve been rummaging through research files that cover the history of the Crater during the 1950s and 60s.  Thankfully, I’ve been making steady progress on my manuscript revisions.  I am playing around with an opening to this post-WWII chapter that tries to imagine what a family would have seen and read between the visitors center and wayside markers at the Petersburg battlefield.  Perhaps I will share it with you to get some feedback.  Anyway, here are some notes I took while looking at a collection of Civil War Centennial pamphlets.

UVA: Civil War Centennial Information: “Virginia’s Opportunity: The Civil War Centennial, 1961-1965″ [published by the Virginia Civil War Commission, Richmond, Va, 1960]  Manual was prepared for Civil War centennial committees and teachers “who are trying to interpret the meaning of this momentous era to the youth of Virginia.”

“But the Centennial is no time for finding fault or placing blame or fighting the issues all over again.  Americans from every section produced the divisions which led to war.  These divisions grew out of hate, greed and fear, ignorance and apathy, selfishness and emotionalism—evils from which this generation is not free.”  “This is the time to recognize these divisive forces; but this is also the time to honor dedication and devotion, courage and honor, integrity and faith—qualities plentifully demonstrated in the War of 1861 to 1865—and needed for our survival in the years to come.” (from the Foreward)

Opening day, Sunday, January 8, 1961

Va’s opening day: April 23, 1961 on the day that R.E. Lee accepted command of Virginia armed forces.

“The chief purpose of the Centennial is to strengthen the unity of the country through mutual understanding—an understanding derived from the realization that there was dedication and devotion on both sides.  North and South, there were those who gave all they had in support of what they sincerely believed was right.”  “In the Centennial the spotlight will be on character in men—for was is the ultimate test of character.  The stories of the Civil War are full of lessons for present-day living.  By these examples we can teach children and adults the moral values so needed in America today. (p.8) Continue reading

 

Edward Sebesta v. Barack Obama and the Battle for Civil War Memory

Looks like anti-Neo-Confederate crusader, Edward Sebesta, is getting a head start on this year’s petition requesting that President Obama not send a wreath to the Confederate monument at Arlington National Cemetery.  I covered this in some detail on the blog and was very open in my opposition to such a petition.  [You can read my commentary here and here.]  To sum up, I didn’t see how a petition (written by Sebesta and James Loewen) against the laying of a wreath would lead to anything approaching a constructive and meaningful dialog about the Civil War, race, and memory.  More importantly, it all but ignored the fact that we now have a president in office who is ideally suited to encourage and/or lead such a discussion.

Sebesta seems quite pleased with the impact of the petition, though I believe he exaggerates its affect.  First, let me be clear that I agree with Sebesta’s general assessment of the problem with the Confederate monument at Arlington.  It perpetuates a number of myths about slavery and black Confederates.  The monument was dedicated at the height of Jim Crow and ought to be seen as one of the clearest expressions of the Lost Cause memory of the Civil War.  While we may agree on interpretation we disagree on how best to engage the general public regarding such sensitive issues.  Continue reading

 

Gone With the Wind at 70

This year is the 70th anniversary of Gone With the Wind and this week my Civil War Memory class will watch it.  Depending on how they respond to it we may even watch it in its entirety.  There are so many thought provoking scenes, which will allow us to address a number of interpretive threads that have been passed down in our collective memory.  With Birth of a Nation already under their belt they will also be able to begin to track certain themes in popular culture during the first part of the twentieth century.

In addition to viewing the movie, students will have to write an analytical review that addresses questions that I have provided.  This time around they will also have to spend some time on one of our school’s databases that includes newspapers from around the country.  They will have to integrate reviews and editorials into their essays.  We will start with the following blog post from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to get the juices flowing.

 

Black Confederates Defined on Facebook

One of my FB friends invited me to join a group dedicated to black Confederates. There are just under 200 members.  No surprise that just about all of them are white, including Rickey Pittman.  There is nothing serious about the site.  Essentially, it serves as a dumping ground for the same tired stories that populate the Web.  To get a sense of how ridiculous this is consider the fact that they use an image of Jim Limber as their profile picture.  One of the more aspects of the site is the attempt to define who constitutes a black Confederate.  Check it out:

BLACK CONFEDERATE DEFINED: 1. Any Black person, slave or free, a subject of a seceded Southern state, who faithfully performed his/her duties during the existence of the Confederate States of America. There were 3.5 million blacks in 1860 census residing in Southern states so the number of Black Confederates numbers in millions, not thousands.

Black Confederate Definition 2: Post War 1865-1940. Blacks of any age and gender and including veterans who identified with and defended the Confederate Cause, its symbols and veterans.

Black Confederate Definition 3: Modern. Blacks of any age and gender who identify with and defend the Confederate Cause, its symbols and heroes; and who belong to the Confederate Community and/or consider themselves Confederate Southern Americans.

So, I guess the tens of thousands of free blacks and fugitive slaves who served in the U.S. Army betrayed a cause that they morally ought to have supported in some way.  Notice also that the term has been completely watered down beyond any kind of presence with the Confederate army.  I guess “faithfully performed his/her duties” simply means that they maintained their roles as slaves.  As for Definition #2 I would love to know who they have in mind.  Is there a Preferred Membership option for those who maintained their loyalty even as Jim Crow hardened race relations at the turn of the twentieth century?  Finally, I guess they have the likes of H.K. Edgerton in mind for their Modern category.

There is something quite disturbing about a bunch of white people recruiting blacks to buttress their silly beliefs about the loyalty of tens of thousands of slaves.