Category Archives: Memory

Lincoln in the Movies

This first video is perfect for a course on Lincoln and/or Civil War memory.  It provides a nice overview of how Lincoln has been interpreted in Hollywood movies and television since 1915.  The only reference that I was unfamiliar with is the recent short animation, Robot Chicken: Jedi in Chief, in which George W. Bush faces off against Lincoln.  Enjoy.

High School Students Bring The Crater and Loyal Slaves to Life

Samuel LowryLooks like students at South Pointe High School are bringing to life the diary of Lt. Samuel “Catawba” Lowry, who served in the 17th South Carolina Infantry.  Lowry’s diary is well worth reading.  He provides a great deal of detail about camp life, battle, as well as his experiences with his servants.  His final diary entry comes just days before the battle of the Crater in which he was killed.  Lowry’s servant, Henry Avery recovered the body and escorted it home to Yorkville for burial.  On the one hand, I love projects like this.  Unfortunately, it looks like both teacher and students might be taking a bit too much license with the diary.

It is a story about Lowry’s home and his family – a story about his beloved Southland. Most of all, is a story about relationships and bonds of brotherhood.  It is also a story that some of the South Pointe cast members hope will challenge the stereotypes of the Civil War and slavery. Three of the essential voices in the play are Lowry family slaves: Horace, Jesse and Henry. They accompanied young Samuel to war. The diary never uses the word slave. Lowry refers to them as servants or boy.  It was Henry who descended into the crater, recovering Lowry’s body. Henry then found Lowry’s possessions – including the diary – and then brought Lowry home to Yorkville for burial.  South Pointe teacher James Chrismon and students such as junior Nicholas Arsenal turned the diary into a stage play. The play is not literal – some theatrical licenses were taken – but it stays true to Lowry’s beliefs and to his prose….

Anthony McCullough, one of two black students in the play, said the production “makes me realize that black people have come a long way.”  Arsenal said he hopes the play changes some perspective on slavery. “It wasn’t right, but not everyone was treated so badly.  “This play is about equality,” Arsenal continued. “Race doesn’t matter. Anyone can be your family,” he said.

Of course, it would be a mistake to blame students for characterizing the relationship between master and slave as one of equality.  Responsibility for this falls squarely on their teacher. This might be a good time to recommend one of Gilder-Lehrman’s summer Teacher Seminars.

Marching For King

This photograph was taken in Brooksville, Florida in 1989.  The caption reads: “Their backs turned to the Confederate memorial, more than 500 people rally in Brooksville before stepping off for a parade on Martin Luther King Day.”  The inscription on the back of the monument reads:

This monument perpetuates the memory of our fallen heroes–We care not whence they came; wether unknown or known to fame; their cause and country still the same; they died and were the gray–leaving to posterity, a glorious heritage–an imperishable record of dauntless valor.

Confederate Monument, Martin Luther King

If Slaves Had Guns

22th Regt. U.S. Colored TroopsSeriously, I am all for an honest debate about gun control and the Second Amendment, but this isn’t it.  There is something incredibly disturbing behind the assumption that Martin Luther King, who gave his life advocating for peace and non-violence, would support something called Gun Appreciation Day. What is even more ridiculous, however, is the claim made by Larry Ward that if blacks had guns than “perhaps slavery might not have been a chapter in our history.”

I am not sure if Mr. Ward understands that he just made an argument for the strictest gun control legislation possible.  Whites exercised a great amount of control – through legal and extra-legal means – to ensure that slaves were not able to arm themselves.  They did so because they believed that such a scenario constituted a direct threat to their communities.  It goes without saying that they were probably right about that. :-)

Someone should remind Mr. Ward that the slaves eventually did find a way to arm themselves, however, I sincerely doubt that he is looking to see such a scenario play out once again.

Virginia Flagger Arrested

It was just a matter of time.  After months of protesting outside of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts over the removal of Confederate flags from the grounds of the “Old Soldier’s Home”/Pelham Chapel the Virginia Flaggers have little to show for their efforts.  All attempts to branch out and get involved in other causes – most notably with the opening of the MOC in Appomattox [and here] – have failed to generate support.

Individual Flaggers have challenged VMFA authorities in the past so there should have been little doubt as to how this situation would turn out.

A few months ago I was contacted by someone at the VMFA to talk about how they might handle this protest.  I didn’t have much to offer beyond suggesting that they wait it out, but I did jokingly suggest that they put together an exhibit on the Confederate flag that utilized the Flaggers as a modernist interpretation/performance.    I believe this more than ever after watching the above video. You gotta love those jeans, jacket and sunglasses.

The Flaggers and associated groups will likely milk this for all it’s worth, but it is nothing more than a sign of the organization’s lack of direction and inability to garner support around the substantive issues.