Can the Lost Cause and Civil Rights Narratives Co-Exist in the South?

Update: This story from yesterday’s New York Times on Mississippi’s planned Civil Rights museum slated to open in 2017 fits right into this post.

Unidentified Photo From Civil Rights Era
Unidentified Photo From Civil Rights Era

While interpreting the Jefferson Davis and Confederate Soldiers’ Monuments on the Alabama State House grounds a little over a week ago I couldn’t help but wonder whether this Lost Cause narrative and a growing commitment to remember the civil rights movement can co-exist. It’s hard to miss the latter in a place like Montgomery and other Southern cities. Jefferson Davis now looks down on the Rosa Parks Museum and a number of markers that remind folks of the slave trade and civil rights era. On the one hand these monuments, museums, and markers represent an evolving story about how communities choose to remember their collective pasts. At the same time it is hard not to feel the rub between the competing values that these sites represent. Continue reading “Can the Lost Cause and Civil Rights Narratives Co-Exist in the South?”

Glenn McConnell Commemorates the 150th Anniversary of the Assault at Battery Wagner

​Earlier today I shared some thoughts about the ongoing controversy surrounding the appointment of Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell as the new president of the College of Charleston. As you already know, the controversy surrounding this choice has to do with his close identification with the Confederate flag and Confederate heritage generally. This past July McConnell was invited to speak at the 150th anniversary of the assault at Battery Wagner, which highlights the story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. It’s well worth reading. Thanks to Brent Everitt of the National Park Service for passing this along. Continue reading “Glenn McConnell Commemorates the 150th Anniversary of the Assault at Battery Wagner”

Catharsis and the Historical Imagination in Selma, Alabama

Student Group at Slavery and Civil War Museum in Selma, Alabama (not my school)
Student Group at Slavery and Civil War Museum in Selma, Alabama (not my school)

One of the highlights of my recent school trip through the Civil Rights South was walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge for the first time in Selma, Alabama. The bridge is one of the most iconic images of the struggle and the film of the marchers being assaulted by police on “Bloody Sunday” moves me every time. Continue reading “Catharsis and the Historical Imagination in Selma, Alabama”

12 Years A Slave Wins Best Picture

Check out Mary Niall Mitchell’s Common-place essay on the backstory of 12 Years.

As many of you now know, last night 12 Years A Slave won Oscars for Best Picture, Actress in a Supporting Role, and Adapted Screenplay. Congratulations to Steve McQueen, John Ridley, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Brad Pitt, and the rest of the cast and crew for making this important movie.

“Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live. This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup,” – Steve McQueen

“Cruel, unjust, exploitative, oppressive, slavery bound two peoples together in bitter antagonism…” – Eugene Genovese

There are plans to bring this movie to classrooms across the country. Stay tuned.

Denmark Vesey – Trayvon Martin – Jordan Davis

A new monument to Denmark Vesey was recently unveiled in Charleston, South Carolina. The unveiling placed Vesey back in the news over the past two weeks with recent editorials by Douglas Egerton appearing in The New York Times and Honor Sachs at the Huffington Post. The two writers seem to disagree over whether there is sufficient evidence that Vesey intended to carry out a slave insurrection. That difference is reflected in how they frame the meaning/significance of Vesey’s legacy. Continue reading “Denmark Vesey – Trayvon Martin – Jordan Davis”