Category Archives: Memory

Should We Still Associate Racism With Confederate Heritage?

The following clip was pulled from a recent NEH panel on the legacy of emancipation.  It included Ed Ayers, Gary Gallagher, Christy Coleman, Eric Foner, and Thavolia Glymph.  I highly recommend viewing the entire session if you have the time, but for now check out this short clip from the Q&A.  In it an African-American student asks if we should still associate racism with Confederate heritage.  I am not surprised that Christy Coleman, president of the American Civil War Center, decided to respond and she does so in a very fair and balanced manner.  Coleman’s response reflects both the difficulties of her position as a black woman running a Civil War museum in the former capital of the Confederacy and someone who has listened closely to visitors hailing from very different backgrounds.  Yeah, count me as a fan of Christy Coleman.

The Last Battle of the Civil War?

Today marks the 50th anniversary of campus violence at Ole Miss over the admission of James Meredith.

We have a front-row seat at American history, with a debt we can never repay no matter our achievements. We are like refugees, not from another country but from another time, carrying memories that propel us forward. – Dumas

Thank you, James Meredith.

Alabama’s Civil War Memory

Selma, Alabama (1965)

I guess we should have seen this coming from a mile away.  In the wake of heated protests from their loyal fans Lynyrd Skynyrd has decided that they will fly the Confederate flag at their concerts.  And just in case you still question their commitment to the flag’s history and meaning rest assured:

Myself, the past members and the present members (that are from the South), are all extremely proud of our heritage and being from the South. We know what the Dixie flag represents and its heritage; the Civil War was fought over States rights.” — Gary Rossington

I guess a southern man does need him around…at least to buy those records.

In other news, the Selma City Council has voted to halt the construction of a monument to Nathan Bedford Forrest until it can be determined who owns the land on which it is to be placed.

And so it goes.

A Worthy Death: A Review of Death and the Civil War

After writing two short posts about American Experience’s Death and the Civil War I decided to write up something a bit more comprehensive for the Atlantic.  You can read it here in its entirety.

In his interview with Harvard president and historian Drew G. Faust about American Experience‘s new documentary Death and the Civil War, Stephen Colbert laments, “You are beginning to make the Civil War sound like a downer.” While it garnered a good laugh from the audience, the comment betrays an important aspect of how Americans have remembered the Civil War and the kinds of narratives that are celebrated.

Ric Burns’s latest film is based largely on Faust’s book This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War, which addresses the vast landscape of death and suffering experienced during the war years and beyond. The airing of this important program comes not just on the same week as the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam — the single bloodiest day in American history — but at the end of two costly and controversial wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is difficult to look at the way Americans confronted death 150 years ago without seeing just how far removed we’ve been from the killing fields of Iraq and Afghanistan. We all remember the controversy surrounding whether photographs of flag-draped caskets at Dover Air Force Base in 2004 could be shown to the American public.

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Feeling Left Out of the Antietam Festivities?

I know the feeling.  It’s a beautiful morning here in Boston, but I would much rather be tramping along the Antietam Creek in Sharpsburg just about now.  Here are a few options for those of you looking to feel more connected today and tomorrow.  First, C-SPAN [Click here if you do not get C-SPAN 3 (10am EST)] will provide live coverage of events today at the battlefield, which include a series of talks and Q&A from James McPherson, Mark Neely, and Harold Holzer.  They will also broadcast a tour of the battlefield led by Brooks Simpson and Mark Grimsley.  I believe this is the tour they led as part of the most recent Civil War Institute back in June.  I also highly recommend checking out the Civil War Trust’s Antietam 360.  It puts you right on the battlefield and for you teachers it also makes for a great classroom application.

You might also want to check out Megan Kate Nelson’s CWI talk on the photographs of the Antietam dead.  You can find plenty of video of the two Antietam reenactments that were held last week on YouTube.  For those of you on twitter you can follow the hashtags #Antietam and #Antietam150 for additional links, pics, and commentary.

Finally, I suspect that most of you have read your fair share of Antietam books and essays.  Richard Slotkin’s new book is out.  I’ve read sections of it and it reads well, but like his recent study of the Crater, which I enjoyed , it is not built on extensive research in the archives or even the secondary literature.  My recommendation is to pre-order Scott Hartwig’s forthcoming study, To Antietam Creek: The Maryland Campaign of September 1862 (Johns Hopkins University Press).  Many of us have been looking forward to this one for some time.  Scott is a dynamite historian and at 800 pages it promises to be the most thorough analysis since Joseph Harsh’s 2-volume study.  I should have an advanced copy in hand in the next few days.

That should get you started in creating your own personal Antietam 150 experience.  Enjoy.