Category Archives: Southern History

Jefferson Davis Welcomes Students Studying Civil Rights Movement

Jefferson Davis Monument

Jefferson Davis Monument

On Sunday I head out with roughly 35 students and 3 colleagues for a 5-day tour of the Civil Rights South. We’ve been meeting with students to give them a broad outline of the history and questions that will be covered as we travel from Atlanta to Memphis.

One of my main responsibilities will be to help students make connections between the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement through a close examination of monuments and memorials. I want students to understand that the visual reminders of the civil rights struggle are fairly recent additions to the landscape and that they exist in some tension with reminders of the Civil War and the Lost Cause. Continue reading

When Students From Boston Go South To Study Civil Rights

In a little over three weeks I will be heading out with roughly 35 students on a civil rights tour of the South. Our trip will take us from Atlanta, Georgia to Memphis, Tennessee. Along the way we will stop at some of the most important sites related to the civil rights struggle and talk with various participants, including a Freedom Rider who was on the bus that was firebombed in Anniston, Alabama. My primary responsibility along the way will be to help students make connections with the Civil War and Reconstruction era through the interpretation of various public sites including monuments and buildings. It promises to be an enlightening and enjoyable trip for all involved and yet I have some concerns. Continue reading

Denmark Vesey – Trayvon Martin – Jordan Davis

A new monument to Denmark Vesey was recently unveiled in Charleston, South Carolina. The unveiling placed Vesey back in the news over the past two weeks with recent editorials by Douglas Egerton appearing in The New York Times and Honor Sachs at the Huffington Post. The two writers seem to disagree over whether there is sufficient evidence that Vesey intended to carry out a slave insurrection. That difference is reflected in how they frame the meaning/significance of Vesey’s legacy. Continue reading

Drew Faust Talks About Mothers of Invention

Update: Check out Drew Faust’s review of David Brion Davis’s new book.

This C-SPAN Booknotes interview with historian Drew Faust goes back to the publication of her 1996 book, Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War. In 1996 I was working at Borders Books & Music in Rockville, Maryland. The store included an incredible American History section, which fueled my interest in the war. This was the second book that I read after McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. It’s a wonderful book even though its central thesis has been challenged and a great place to start if you are interested in Southern women during the Civil War. Continue reading

“A Ludicrous Tragedy or a Solemn Farce”

Today in my survey class we examined newspaper editorials from across the country in the wake of John Brown’s raid at Harpers Ferry in October 1859. The goal of the lesson was to learn how to interpret newspapers and to get a sense of the extent of the sectional divide over Brown’s actions. Students tracked assessments of Brown that bridged North and South and ways in which they diverged. Even more interesting was watching them come to terms with the fact that not everyone in each region agreed on what Brown’s actions meant. Students struggled quite a bit with an editorial from Nashville, Tennessee. Continue reading