The following documentary fits neatly into the culture of 1950s America. Southern plantations were depicted as scenes of peaceful coexistence between master and slaves before the Civil War and through the era of Jim Crow. According to this narrative, slave labor led naturally to sharecropping, and both arrangements provided the two parties with an equal benefit within an organic community. One can hear echoes of the Lost Cause view of the Civil War, which played down the evils of slavery and the coming of emancipation and freedom.
Today, if we visit a social gathering in the south, we’ll see some of these things. The gentle manners and courtesy. The separation of society into distinct groups. And the relationship of that society to the land, which supplies its wealth. These are some of the things the plantation system has contributed to southern life.
The nation’s collective memory of its Southern past, which included no hint of any racial or class tension, reinforced America’s self-proclaimed status as leader of the free world at the height of the Cold War. Within a few years, this view would be shattered by bus boycotts, Freedom Riders, and lunch-counter sit-ins. As a result, by the end of the 1960s, a new interpretation of the Antebellum South began to emerge, one that attempted to deal more honestly with some of the tougher questions related to slavery and race.
I think you are going to find this to be quite entertaining and perhaps even appropriate for some of your classrooms depending on how you choose to use it. Unfortunately, I was only able to embed a preview, but you can watch the full video here, which also includes the lyrics.
Having a great time here in Milwaukee at the OAH/NCPH. I just finished participating in a lively roundtable discussion on the Civil War 150th. The participants covered a wide swath of the education and public history field and the topics ranged from how to engage the general public to shaping content on the Internet. Tomorrow morning I am giving a talk on teaching Civil War movies, which should be a lot of fun.
This is one of those days when I desperately wish I was in the classroom teaching my course on the American Civil War. Yesterday the Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Richmond released Visualizing Emancipation, which allows you to track individual emancipation events on a timeline. As it stands you can track different types of emancipation events along, filter results by different kinds of records and even add your own events to the database.
The project will surely yield insights that are not discernible through traditional sources, but what emerges at first glance is the importance of both railroads and waterways as avenues of emancipation as well as the Union army. Congratulations to Scott Nesbit and the rest of the team at DSL for producing such an incredible resource.