I am a big fan of Chandra Manning’s book, What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War. It’s an incredibly thought-provoking book and especially helpful when it comes to understanding how Confederates conceptualized the importance of slavery throughout the war. However, I am less convinced by her analysis of how the bitter fighting in the spring and summer of 1864 effected the attitudes of Northern soldiers regarding slavery and civil rights.
While I agree with Manning that by the summer of 1863 many of the men in the ranks accepted the necessity of ending slavery for the sake of the war effort and the Union she goes on to argue that these men had also been inspired to “consider more thoughtfully their own obligations to overcome racial prejudice and promote at least some basic rights for black Americans…” (153). By 1864, according to Manning, military setbacks and other problems caused these men to “back away” from “a world of increasing racial equality and black rights.” Continue reading →
This morning I was reminded that today is the first day of the sesquicentennial of the War in 1864. As I alluded to this past spring, it is going to be very interesting to see how the final sixteen months of the war will be commemorated and remembered. There are practical issues of funding, but there is also the turn that the war itself took in 1864. Those of us on the education/public history side of things will have to think long and hard about how we engage the public about some of the more important and challenging issues of the war. Continue reading →
Richmond, Virginia is an ideal location for a slavery museum. The project would give Gov. Robert McDonnell the opportunity to leave office with a solid legacy of promoting Richmond’s rich heritage and history. It would also serve as the perfect bookend to McDonnell’s earlier misstep and thoughtful turnaround in connection with his Confederate History Month proclamation back in 2010. [see here, here, and here]
THREE MONTHS after he took office in 2010, Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell plunged headlong into a public relations debacle of his own making by omitting any mention of slavery from a proclamation he issued during Confederate History Month. After some ham-handed damage control, he apologized for airbrushing history, amended the proclamation to refer to the “abomination of slavery” and said he would be a “champion for racial reconciliation” as the state prepared to commemorate the Civil War’s 150th anniversary.
Mr. McDonnell, a Republican, has gone some distance to make good on that promise. Recently, he announced that his final budget, to be submitted to the General Assembly before he leaves office next month, would include $11 million for the construction of a museum and other sites to commemorate slavery, all in Richmond.