Just finished reading Jill Ogline Titus’s thoughtful essay on the Civil War sesquicentennial and its renewed focus on the themes of slavery and emancipation in the most recent issue of The Journal of the Civil War Era. Jill surveys how various institutions have interpreted these controversial themes through their exhibits, symposia, and websites. Continue reading
Robert E. Lee (1856):
The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, physically and socially. The painful discipline they are undergoing is necessary for their further instruction as a race, and will prepare them, I hope, for better things. (1856)
Considering the relation of master and slave, controlled by humane laws and influenced by Christianity and an enlightened public sentiment, as the best that can exist between the white and black races while intermingled as at present in this country, I would depreciate any sudden disturbance of that relation unless it be necessary to avert a greater calamity to both. (1865)
Cliven Bundy (2014):
They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.
I’m wondering: Are they happier now under this government subsidy system than they were when they were slaves, when they was able to have their family structure together, and the chickens and a garden, and the people had something to do?
Bundy’s views on race and slavery, while shocking to most intelligent and decent people, have a long and distinguished pedigree.
Looks like the story of Andrew and Silas Chandler is now the subject of a poem by Yusef Komunyakaa, which appears in the collection, Lines in Long Array: A Civil War Commemoration: Poems and Photographs, Past and Present. There is something satisfying about the story of Silas making it into such a collection and some of the stanzas are quite beautiful, but it is unfortunate that Komunyakaa makes so many mistakes. More to the point we are presented with the story of Silas as the loyal slave whose world is defined by service to Andrew and the Confederate cause. Continue reading
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.
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
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