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 “Denmark Vesey – Trayvon Martin – Jordan Davis”

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 “Drew Faust Talks About Mothers of Invention”

“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 ““A Ludicrous Tragedy or a Solemn Farce””

Visualizing Secession

The Civil War Trust has posted a nice little graphic that highlights the importance of slavery in the “Declaration of Causes” issued by four states in the Deep South that seceded in the wake of Abraham Lincoln’s election. The graphs break down the frequency of references to slavery, states’ rights, Lincoln, etc. in these documents. It will work well in the classroom, but it is somewhat deceiving.

Any proper analysis of the secession of the Deep Southern states must explore the extent to which references to Lincoln, states’ rights and other economic concerns connected to slavery. These are not alternative explanations for secession; rather, they flesh out the importance and place of slavery in these states.

Civil War Trust, Secession

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