Category Archives: Slavery

Has the Lost Cause Lost? (Redux)

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Stained-Glass Window at Richmond Memorial Chapel

In 2010 I was asked by the Wilson Quarterly to write a short response to an essay on the Civil War and historical memory by Christopher Clausen. I suggested that there is reason to think that the Lost Cause’s influence on the general public, with its emphasis on states’ rights as the primary cause of the Civil War, is gradually being supplanted by slavery. In the latest issue of Civil War Book Review, Gaines Foster briefly explores the landscape of Civil War memory studies and along the way suggests that this may indeed be the case.

For many scholars and journalists, the idea of a persistent and powerful role for the Lost Cause extends beyond the 1960s; they claim to find in the contemporary South a widespread and deep commitment to the Lost Cause or see various examples of the white South still fighting the Civil War. The continuing battle over the Confederate flag and other Confederate symbols would seem to support such views, although the flag fights may be even more immediately shaped by matters of race than the Lost Cause celebrations of the late nineteenth century. Continue reading

Racist Images and Messages in Jim Crow Era

The next episode of PBS’s The African Americans airs on Tuesday night.

The African American in antebellum times was, as the stereotype held, reliable, faithful, hardworking, malleable. Indeed, one entrusted one’s children, one’s property to such people. Now, of a sudden, the African American becomes demonized, a threat, a lascivious beast roaming the countryside of the South, people loosed by the end of slavery and now upon us like locusts.  Well, this was an absurdity. — David Levering Lewis

The Star-Spangled Banner You Didn’t Hear During the World Series

President Herbert Hoover finally made it official in 1931, when “The Star-Spangled Banner” was officially declared our national anthem.  It’s as patriotic an anthem as it is difficult to sing, but we only sing the first verse at public events. I have to admit that I never paid much attention to the other three verses until I read Alan Taylor’s new book, The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832.

The third verse speaks directly to the British policy of liberating slaves in the Chesapeake region of Maryland and Virginia and their recruitment into the army.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

The “land of the free and the home of the brave” takes on a whole new meaning after reading this verse. I suspect that you will never hear our anthem quite the same way.

Former Slaves in the Spotlight, but With No Vote

black confederate, ludwell brownThis morning I was perusing some of my favorite Facebook pages when I came across this gem of a photograph. The image of three elderly black men waving Confederate flags is accompanied by the standard comments from the Southern Heritage crowd. It’s not particularly interesting given the number of photographs that clearly point to the presence of black men at Confederate veteran reunions and other public events throughout the postwar period. Continue reading