Forrest was known as a very humane slave trader…. He never split families.
That, my friends, is a morally bankrupt position. What I find truly startling, however, is that anyone would go ahead and actually make this point on television for public consumption. Millar certainly deserves some kind of award. At least H.K. Edgerton decided to leave the costume at home. Their only hope last night was that the state government would step in with legislation that would make it illegal to change the names of parks named after military leaders. You gotta love the irony in that.
Regardless of whether they like it or not, it’s time for Confederate heritage advocates to adopt a new strategy. No one should have been surprised by the council’s decision, least of all the SCV. They should have from the beginning jumped on board with a name change that added Ida B. Wells to the park. Now they stand to lose Forrest completely from the landscape.
And when you say idiotic things about “human slave traders” you deserve to lose it all.
This story just keeps getting more bizarre by the hour. Earlier today it looked like the Memphis City Council was going to vote to change the name of Forrest Park to Forrest – Wells Park, in honor of Ida B. Wells. Of course, local heritage organizers decided to shuttle in H.K. Edgerton to speak on behalf of a slave trader and member of the Ku Klux Klan. A few hour ago it looked like the council was going to rush through a vote to beat the passage of legislation on the state level (PDF) that would make it illegal to change the name of any public space named after a military figure. The latest news is that a decision was made to temporarily change the names of three city parks:
Forrest Park will now be known as Health Sciences Park.
Confederate Park is now Memphis Park.
Jefferson Davis Park is now Mississippi River Park.
And there you have it. I assume they will re-visit this issue at a later date. As always, I am happy with what the local community decides through their local elected officials.
That said, I do hope they decide to amend the name of the park to include Wells rather than discard Forrest entirely. The dedication of a park after such an individual tells us something important about the history of race and white power in Memphis’s history. Tearing it down does little more than erase that history from public view. Adding a monument and/or marker to Ida B. Wells compliments the Forrest monument in any number of ways. It reflects the voices of a part of the community that was prevented from taking part in the process that led to the original dedication and, more importantly, it reflects a stark change of values.
I am putting the finishing touches on my Crisis at Fort Sumter simulation, which my students will work on throughout this week and present next Tuesday. Thanks to those of you who offered suggestions on primary and secondary sources. One of the documents that I am including comes from William Freehling and Craig Simpson’s edited collection of speeches from the Virginia State Convention that met in early 1861 to discuss the secession crisis. I want my class to reflect on the importance of maintaining Virginia in the Union along with the rest of the Upper South. On April 4 the Virginia convention voted 88 – 45 to remain in the Union.
Included in their documents is an excerpt from a speech given by Representative Chapman Stuart of Augusta County Tyler and Doddridge counties on April 5. What I like about this document is that it first reminds us that slavery was central to the concerns of this group. Most convention members would certainly have disagreed with folks today who deny the centrality of slavery in the deliberations of Virginians in the wake of Lincoln’s election and inauguration and in contrast with those states that viewed the Republican Party as an immediate threat. What they miss is the fact that many conditional and unconditional Unionists believed that the institution of slavery was safer in the Union.
Chapman owned no slaves and yet he puts forth a vigorous defense of the institution and a commitment to working with colleagues from the Tidewater who owned the majority of Virginia’s slaves. I hope my students are able to use this document to reinforce a line of argument that cautions Lincoln not to threaten the loyalty of those who up to this point have prevented Virginia from seceding. Stuart references the strong desire of his constituents, who hope to maintain ties with the North. Of course, that could easily be challenged depending on how the situation develops in Charleston and the types of choices white Southerners are forced to confront as a result.
As an educator, however, I worry much more about people like Dan Horn and his new series of videos, titled “Causes of the Civil War” which he sells through a website called Discerning History. Horn is “is a writer, tour guide, computer programer and pastor based in North Carolina. He is an elder at Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, North Carolina, and has written several books on theology.” He has no credentials in the field of history or history education. Here is what that gets you.
Like many of you who are in the classroom I spend a good deal of time trying to find ways to impart the complexity of slavery and the master-slave relationship to my high school students. Mr. Horn’s understanding of the subject is not only seriously flawed, it’s dangerous. From what I can tell his understanding of the history of slavery is based on books written entirely before 1940. His website looks somewhat professional and the videos themselves will easily seduce those who do not know any better. This is just another reason why the Internet can be both a blessing and a curse.
It should go without saying that a site such as this without any institutional affiliation and hosted by an individual with no formal training in the field should not be utilized as an educational resource.
John Christopher Winsmith was what historian Jason Phillips refers to as a “diehard rebel.” Throughout the war, Winsmith never wavered in his enthusiasm for the cause. He believed that it was incumbent on everyone in the Confederacy to make the necessary sacrifices in the army and on the home front. In letters that routinely characterized the Lincoln and the Yankee army as “invaders” and “abolitionists” it is clear that Winsmith viewed the struggle as a war to protect slavery. Winsmith’s father, who served in the state legislature in 1860, introduced the following resolution immediately after Lincoln’s election to the presidency:
That this General Assembly is satisfied that Abram Lincoln has already been elected President of the United States, and that said election has been based upon principles of open and avowed hostility to the social organization and peculiar interests of the slave holding states of this Confederacy.
The father fully supported the war effort by purchasing Confederate bonds as well as his sons efforts to earn promotion.