Category Archives: Teaching

The Future of Civil War History Is Not On the Battlefield

think-digital brainTomorrow I hope to finish up an essay that I was asked to write for one of the Civil War journals over a year ago about the the influence of digital technologies on how we write and research history and how that has fueled the myth of the black Confederate soldier.  At the end of the essay I take a moment to suggest ways that academic and public historians as well as history educators generally might address this myth, not by jumping head first into the very places where these emotional debates are taking place, but by re-considering what it means to educate the public at a time when everyone can be his/her own historian on the Web. Continue reading

Should This Confederate Flag Be Allowed in School?

Confederate flagOnce again, the courts have supported the right of school districts to ban students from wearing clothing that includes the Confederate flag.  The most recent case involved a school district in South Carolina in which a student repeatedly clashed with school administrators over a number of t-shirts that likely were purchased at a local Dixie Outfitters, including “Southern Chicks,” “Dixie Angels,” “Southern Girls,” and “Daddy’s Little Redneck.”

Hardwick also sought to wear a shirt labeled “Black Confederates,” honoring a Louisiana Civil War regiment made up of free African-Americans. She also tried to wear shirts she characterized as protests of censorship of the others, with slogans such as “Jesus and the Confederate Battle Flag: Banned from Our Schools but Forever in Our Hearts,” and “Offended by School Censorship of Southern Heritage.”

This is nothing more than a case of bad parenting.

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Nathan Bedford Forrest For Teens

Nathan Bedford ForrestWorried about who your teenager idolizes?  Well, now you can return them to the good old days of the Civil War and Southern chivalry with Lochlainn Seabrook’s book about Nathan Bedford Forrest that is geared specifically for teens.

Ride along with Forrest and get a firsthand look at his childhood in Tennessee, his teens in Mississippi, his first years away from home, his marriage and children, his multimillion dollar businesses, the start of the American “Civil War,” his enrollment in the Confederate army, and his rise to fame as a daring and successful Rebel officer.  Thrill to the dramatic descriptions of General Forrest’s exploits on and off the battlefield as he and his courageous cavalry (which included 64 black Confederate soldiers) fought their way across the South defending hearth, home, honor, and the constitutional right of self-government.

Find out why the General’s men loved and respected him, why the Southern people looked up to him as their “Spiritual Comforter,” and why he freed his slaves years before Lincoln issued his fake and illegal Emancipation Proclamation.  After Lincoln’s War, follow Forrest as he rebuilt his life from scratch, and helped the South regain her political power and dignity during the Yankees’ cruel and revengeful “Reconstruction” period.  See how the great Confederate chieftain lived out his final years campaigning for black civil rights, giving generously to charities, forgiving the North, and working to heal the physical and emotional wounds left by the War for Southern Independence.

Along the way, you will learn the truth about Forrest and Southern slavery and about Lincoln’s War on the Constitution and the American people, truths that have been hidden for a century and a half by uneducated enemies of the South.  Parents, you will enjoy reading this heavily illustrated compact little book as well, for it contains hundreds of important historical facts that neither you or your children were ever taught in school.

This guy’s basement press makes Pelican look mainstream.  I’ve perused these titles in the past, but this one takes the cake.  One wonders if the details behind that multimillion dollar business will be shared, but I won’t hold my breadth.  I have no doubt that this represents a rearguard action in how we remember and teach the Civil War, but it is hard not to be sympathetic with the few who will fall under its spell at no fault of their own.

Disunion Blog To Be Released As a Book

DisunionWithout a doubt my favorite Civil War site over the past few years has been The New York Time’s Disunion column edited by Clay Risen.  Clay has done a fabulous job of publishing thought-provoking essays by scholars and non-scholars alike that both entertain and educate.  The essays cover a broad range of topics and even touch on subjects that typically fall under the radar. Since its debut in 2010 I have had three essays published.  The first addressed the controversy surrounding a Virginia history texbook and a passage about black Confederates followed by an essay on how I use battlefields to teach.  My most recent column explored the relationship between a Confederate officer and his camp servant.

In May the first volume of essays that cover the period between Fort Sumter and Emancipation will be published and I am happy to report that it will include my most recent essay.  I’ve also been asked to write an essay that will discuss how the book can be used in the history classroom.  Continue reading

Seceding From v. Seceding To

Harvard University Press was kind enough to send me a review copy of Walter Johnson’s new book, River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom.  I am only beginning to make my through it, but I am very enthusiastic given how much I enjoyed Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market.  I am hoping that the book helps to fill at least part of the whole in my understanding of slavery’s connection to the broader Atlantic World.  The only book that I’ve read that directly addresses this subject is Edward Rugemer’s The Problem of Emancipation: The Caribbean Roots of the American Civil War, which I found to be incredibly helpful as I worked to better understand the massacre of USCTs at the Crater by Confederates.

Hopefully, I will have something more to say about the book in the coming weeks, but for now I want to leave you with a short video of Johnson discussing the subject of the book.  What I love about this video is how he describes the slight shift in the kind of question that drove his research.  It’s so subtle and yet it immediately opens up any number of interesting and potentially fruitful lines of inquiry.  I always emphasize to my students the importance of asking the right question at the beginning of the research process.  With their projects right around the corner I may utilize this video to make just that point.