Category Archives: Lost Cause

Review of Caroline Janney’s Remembering the Civil War

JanneyHere is my review of Caroline Janney’s book, Remembering the Civil War: Reunion and the Limits of Reconciliation, which will appear in the next issue of the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography (pp. 389-90). It goes without saying that I highly recommend this book.

In 2001, David Blight published Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory. The book won numerous awards and helped to shape a wave of academic studies that soon followed. Blight’s depiction of a nation that by the turn of the twentieth century had largely embraced sectional reconciliation at the expense of a legacy of emancipation also found a voice outside academic halls on National Park Service battlefields and in museum exhibitions. Many have embraced the narrative of emancipation and its emphasis on African American soldiers throughout the sesquicentennial commemorations as part of an effort to overcome a nation’s willful amnesia. Continue reading

 

Colbert Introduces McQueen to the Lost Cause

In this interview with 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen, Steven Colbert finds a way to both playfully diffuse and explore Lost Cause themes related to slavery. At the beginning of the interview he comments, “I’ve heard the move makes slavery look really bad.” Later after sharing that he is from South Carolina Colbert admits to having learned that “I grew up hearing that some slaves enjoyed…the job security…” The audience laughs in response, but they do so unaware of the fact that there are plenty of people who still subscribe to the Lost Cause belief that slavery was benign.

While I suspect that Colbert is consciously referencing the impact of the Lost Cause on how Americans remember slavery, what is hard to determine is whether McQueen picks up on it. One gets the sense that he simply views Colbert’s comments as outrageous.

Interestingly, I have not heard anyone from the Southern Heritage crowd complain about the depiction of slavery in this movie. Perhaps the movie is still in limited release or there is a unwillingness to challenge a film that is so closely based on a slave narrative.

 

Have Confederate Symbols Lost Their Political and Racial Meanings?

Earlier today I was contacted by a student in Italy, who is currently writing on the subject of Confederate symbols in popular culture. The student inquired into a few areas and I thought he might benefit from hearing from the rest of you until I have a chance to respond.

My name is — — and I’m currently a senior student in History at the University of RomaTre in Rome, Italy. Two years ago i earned a bachelor degree in modern history and now I’m preparing my final master thesis in North American History. Being half American I’m very interested in American culture and society. The subject of my thesis is “The use of Confederate symbols in contemporary southern culture”.

Being very interested in the Civil War era i discovered some time ago your blog and I’ve read with interest your articles on “The Atlantic” that I found very useful. In my essay I would like to demonstrate that in the past 30/40 years Confederate symbols have lost their political and racial meanings and have now become more a popular culture phenomenon than a real political symbol. So i was wondering if you would please answer a couple of questions on this topic, it would be very helpful:

First, I would be interested to find out if in the South or in the Deep South States the disaster of recent years as the hurricane Katrina or 9/11 were followed by the display of Confederate symbols as a symbol of grief and condolence. On this specific topic I can’t find any sources, so do you have any news about it?

Secondly, having read your articles it seems to me that you too are convinced that the Confederate symbols have lost impact since the ’70s. Is it so? What are the causes in your opinion?

 

Confederate Heritage Gone Wild

Both Andy Hall and Brooks Simpson have highlighted another instance of Confederate Heritage gone wild. It’s nothing new, whether we are discussing the latest Virginia Flagger fiasco or SCV misstep. I’ve been accused of highlighting heritage follies for the sake of blog stats and there is some truth to that. At the same time, however, I think it is important to highlight as wide a range of perspectives as possible during this sesquicentennial. Much of this has only emerged owing to social media channels such as Facebook, YouTube and blogging, which allows for incredibly nuanced narratives and perspectives on the past. Continue reading

 

Nathan Bedford Forrest High School To Get New Name

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Forrest High School in Jacksonville, Florida

A long-standing dispute in Jacksonville, Florida has ended with the local school board’s unanimous decision to change the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest High School. As in other decisions about how to collectively remember the past, these decisions ought to be left to local communities. Continue reading