The Internet Never Forgets

You may remember a few months ago a story that I covered concerning two North Carolina high school students, who were photographed waving Confederate flags while on a class trip to Gettysburg. I offered my thoughts in a series of posts that included why my own students were cautioned about purchasing flags in the gift shop during a tour that I led this past March. And I even invited the father of one of the two North Carolina students to share his perspective.

From the beginning my concerns came down to the need on the part of all parties involved, especially educators, to think carefully about how they utilize Confederate flags in the classroom and in public. The photograph of the two girls that was innocently uploaded to social media caused a great deal of misunderstanding and mistrust in their own community, which I suspect the local school board is still dealing with. Continue reading “The Internet Never Forgets”

Reading List for ‘The North’s Civil War’

I am getting close to finalizing the reading list for my research seminar at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, which I will teach this coming fall semester. The seminar will focus specifically on how Northerners understood Union and emancipation over the course of the war. We meet once a week and our time will be divided between discussion of readings and learning how to interpret the AAS’s rich collection of primary sources in preparation for a major research paper, which each student will complete. Check out the course description, though I will likely tweak it in the coming weeks.

As for assigned books, I have managed to narrow it down to six. Of course, they will be supplemented by articles and book chapters, which I will make available to students throughout the semester. I tried to find well written books that will keep my students’ attention, allow us to talk a little historiography and that will cover a good deal of topical ground. Finally, I tried to choose books that are right around 200 pages. Continue reading “Reading List for ‘The North’s Civil War’”

The First Day of the Rest of Your Life

Yesterday I walked out of my high school history classroom for the final time. I gave notice fairly early in the year in order to force myself to think carefully about what might be my next steps. Upon moving to Boston back in the summer of 2011 I hoped to find the space to weigh options beyond the classroom. Without going into too much detail, the reality of moving to a new city necessitated having to think about full-time employment a bit sooner than I would have preferred. It certainly wasn’t the end of the world as I still love teaching high school students and the intellectual stimulation that it brings.

I will never be far from the high school classroom. In fact, it is certainly possible that I may end up in one again, but for now it’s time to think about other possibilities. Continue reading “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life”

Silent Sam in History and Memory

The University of North Carolina’s Confederate soldier monument, “Silent Sam,” continues to be a point of contention on campus. Over the past few years students have debated whether the monument ought to be removed or utilized in some other capacity that acknowledges its divisive past.

The video below offers a very concise and thoughtful overview of the monument’s history and interviews with teachers and students. I think Fitzhugh Brundage nails it at the end as to how to move forward. The video is ideal for introducing students to monument interpretation.

I did not know that the sculptor was Canadian, the model used for the soldier was from Massachusetts and the monument itself was forged in Rhode Island.

[Uploaded to Vimeo on May 18, 2015]

When a Reader Contacts My School

This morning I was informed that a reader of this blog had written a letter addressed to the headmaster of of my school. The reader took issue with my decision to strongly discourage students from purchasing Confederate flags at Civil War gift shops during our March trip. The letter correctly notes that I stipulated that “if [students] did buy the flags he would require that they keep them out of sight.” According to this individual, this constitutes nothing less than “censorship.”

Let me say a few words about this so there is no confusion. I have been very clear on this blog over the years that I believe the Confederate flag to be a controversial symbol. Its meaning goes beyond the soldiers who marched with it and the Civil War entirely. I do not use flags on my battlefield walks given my pedagogical goals and I strongly believe that the flag’s presence must have a purpose for fear of it being misinterpreted. Continue reading “When a Reader Contacts My School”