If I were heading back into the classroom to teach my course on the Civil War and historical memory I would begin by showing this video from the Virginia Historical Society’s exhibit, An American Turning Point: The Civil War in Virginia. If you haven’t seen it you are missing one of the more innovative exhibits to emerge early on for the Civil War 150th. The choice of Jimi Hendrix’s interpretation of the “Star Spangled Banner” is the perfect accompaniment for this collage of images that covers both the short- and long-term consequences of the Civil War.
Teachers can use this video to explore how images, text, and music come together to form a historical narrative. Encourage students to critique the video by pointing out strengths and weaknesses. Which images are out of place or missing? What other musical choices could be utilized as well as choice of text?
I’ve used footnote.com on just about every research project as well as in the classroom, where it has helped to expand the scope of primary sources that I can introduce to my students. Recently the company decided on a name change, which you can read about here. This is a product that I believe in and I am proud to have fold3 as a sponsor of Civil War Memory. Check it out.
In the spring of 2010 I was interviewed by Ken Wyatt for a documentary titled “Colored Confederates.” He filmed for about two hours and we talked about a number of issues related to what I have suggested is one of the most misunderstood topics in Civil War history. Well, it looks like the documentary is close to completion and today I came across the trailer. There is a short snippet of me about half way through that comes after one of H.K. Edgerton’s impassioned speeches. Wyatt also interviewed Nelson Winbush, Bruce Levine, Gerald Prokopowicz, Earl Ijames, and Ervin Jordan. There is a Facebook page for the film that also includes a few shots of me and Ken. I will keep you updated as we get closer to a release date.
Update: Thanks to Andy Hall for sending along the link to the LOC page that includes a reference to David Lowe’s and Philip Shiman’s essay, “Substitute for a Corpse,” Civil War Times, Dec. 2010, p. 41.
One of the websites that I use in my teacher workshops on digital media literacy is a page from the Petersburg Express website, which is maintained by Ashleigh Moody. It makes for an ideal case study of why teachers and students need to be educated about how to access and assess online information. If you scroll down to the bottom of the page you will notice one of the best known photographs from the trenches of Petersburg. It’s a photograph of a dead Confederate soldier, perhaps a member of an artillery unit. There are at least two photographs of the body and one of them includes an additional body. Moody refers to it as, “Black and White Confederate Soldiers.”
By now you must feel quite embarrassed by your little interpretive mishap over at the Southern Heritage Preservation Group. Just think about it, an entire unit of “Negro Cooks” in the Confederate army. Well, on one level it is amusing, but on another it is incredibly disturbing and indicative of the work you have done at your website, Black Confederate Soldiers. Your expressed goal has been from the beginning to educate and share what you believe are stories that have been ignored for far too long. While that is a laudable goal your commentary/analysis clearly points to a lack of understanding surrounding the larger issues related to African Americans and the Confederacy and you clearly do not understand how to conduct primary source analysis. Having access to Footnote.com is a wonderful thing, but without the proper background knowledge the rummaging through documents looking for what you already believe must be there is a walk on the slippery rocks. Unfortunately, you are being encouraged by a group of people who applaud your every “discovery” but make no mistake, they are equally misinformed and ill-equipped to do the heavy lifting of interpretation. How do I know this? Because they would have continued to applaud your discovery of “Negro Cooks” had Andy Hall not come across it. Your cheer leading squad does not constitute any type of peer review of your methods and interpretation and you desperately need this.