Category Archives: Memory

Why the Civil War Matters (according to Ta-Nehisi Coates)

Update: Check out this insightful interview of Coates by Bill Moyers.

Somehow I am going to find a way next year to use Ta-Nehisi Coates’s brilliant essay on reparations in both my U.S. History survey and Civil War courses. My classes covers a good chunk of the history discussed in the essay. It’s not that I expect or even want my students to agree with Coates’s conclusions; in fact, part of the goal of any lesson would be for students to critically analyze the connections made between claim and evidence. Even more important than the argument itself, I want my students to experience what I believe to be one of the best examples of what it means to struggle with the past and why history ultimately matters. Continue reading

 

So That’s What They Are Talking About

In a few weeks I will be heading to Gettysburg College for the annual Civil War Institute. Some of the most memorable experiences are spent on the battlefield walking with guides that have thought deeply about how to interpret historic landscapes. There is a short list of historians and guides who have mastered the ability to leave visitors with a meaningful and even transformative experience. Continue reading

 

The 9-11 Gift Shop is Not For Us

I am not surprised to read that family members, residents of New York City and others are upset with the contents being sold at the 9-11 Memorial and Museum’s gift shop. As someone who lost a close family member in the South Tower of the World Trade Center I get it. Reports on this controversy are quick to point out that “Ground Zero” is not the only site of death and violence whose museums include gift shops, but they overlook one key factor. Continue reading

 

Edward Sebesta Strikes Again

Earlier today Edward Sebesta posted some commentary on a recent controversy over the management of Jefferson Davis’s postwar home at Beauvoir. I also commented on this story back in March and was highly critical of the Mississippi SCV. Apparently, that wasn’t enough for Sebesta, who takes issue with my belief that the home deserves to be “professionally interpreted.”

Levin believes himself to be a member of the elite interpreters of the Civil War and is upset that Beauvoir isn’t going to be interpreted by people like him. Note his terms “professionally interpreted” and “respectfully and tastefully.” He would be quite happy with Beauvoir continuing to be used as a Confederate shrine by “professional” interpreters as he is with the Museum of the Confederacy being a Confederate shrine.

This is not the first time that I’ve been accused of being an “elitist” but it is funny to hear it from Ed rather than the usual folks. I do believe that Beauvoir deserves to be preserved and interpreted so as to give visitors a sense of the location’s importance both to Davis and to the memory of the Confederacy. Continue reading