Category Archives: Public History

Corinth Contraband Camp

Somehow this story fell under my radar screen.  Both the Siege and Battle of Corinth Commission and National Park Service are in the process of preserving and interpreting the Corinth Contraband Camp.   Between 2,500 and 6,000 slaves  made their way to the camp before it was abandoned by the Union army in 1864.  The preservation plan includes seven life-size bronze sculptures, a small cabin, and interpretive signage.  The site is already open to visitors, however, the statues are still in production with plans for the first to be unveiled in November.

This is an excellent example of how our national narrative of the war continues to evolve in the post- Civil Rights Era.  It's hard to imagine such a site being maintained without the necessary political leverage from those whose memories of the war deviate from the Lost Cause tradition – a tradition that was reinforced in public spaces throughout the twentieth century by legalized white supremacy.  For additional reading, see Kirk Savage's Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves (Princeton University Press, 1999).

Welcome Associated Press Readers

Last week I did an interview with A.P. Reporter Steve Szkotak on the Museum of the Confederacy.  We talked for close to an hour about the decision to move part of the collection to various locations around the state in time for the Civil War Sesquicentennial.  I enjoyed the discussion and I appreciate the link to Civil War Memory.  As a historian and teacher I fervently believe that the Museum of the Confederacy is essential to our ability to properly interpret and convey to the general public the rich history of the events and individuals that defined the Confederate experience.

For readers looking for additional commentary on the Museum of the Confederacy see the following links:

Museum of the Confederacy Will Move

Museum of the Confederacy and NAACP Working Together?

No Meeting With Sons of Confederate Veterans

Civil War Memory focuses on the intersection of Civil War historiography, public history, and memory.  I also use this space to discuss the teaching of history on the high school level.  For a sample of some of my favorite posts see the list in the right sidebar.  Comments are always welcome.

Thanks for stopping by.

Why the NPS at Gettysburg Is On the Right Track

I appreciate all of the comments that have been sent in re: the new Visitor Center at Gettysburg.  The major point of disagreement seems to be over the proper scope of interpretation, whether it should be confined to the battlefield or whether it should place the battle within a broader historical context.  My view comes down to the importance of civic education and the need to show why these bloody battles matter beyond the movements of troops and the weapons they carried.  As I’ve stated over and over these men did not simply fall from the sky in July 1863.  They were there for a reason and their actions shaped the course of the rest of American history.  Understanding the battle’s centrality to that broader story is the NPS’s primary mission and one that I believe it fulfills brilliantly.  With that in mind I would like you to consider the perspective of one individual.  This short essay by Allen B. Ballard appeared in the Op-Ed section of the New York Times back in 1999 and is titled, “The Demons of Gettysburg”.  Ballard teaches history at SUNY -Albany.

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