The Other Gettysburg Address

Wilson Gettysburg

First, a bit of good news. Today I learned that my essay, “Black Confederates Out of the Attic and Into the Mainstream” has been accepted for publication in The Journal of the Civil War Era. I suspect I will have to wait some time before I see it in print. I argue that as historians and teachers we need to be thinking harder about how the Internet has changed not only how history is written, but more importantly, how it is being consumed and shared. From the essay:

The success of the black Confederate phenomena can be traced directly to the expansion of the Internet, including access to rich databases of primary sources and the availability of digital tools such as blogs, wikis, and other platforms that allow practically anyone the opportunity to publish a website and engage and influence a wide readership.  This has led to a sharp increase in the amount of history published online by individuals and organizations with little or no formal training in the field.  As a result, the democratization of history through online publishing continues to blur the distinction between professional and popular historians and challenges any presumption of who has the right to research and publish history. While professional historians assume the responsibility of critically assessing the work of their peers they have yet to explore their role in responding to and evaluating online content.  The black Confederate narrative provides academic and public historians with an opportunity to reflect on how they might engage history enthusiasts and the broader general public in an environment that promotes an unregulated marketplace of ideas.

Next week I am heading to Gettysburg College to take part in this year’s Civil War Institute. It’s always a blast and this year is extra special given that is the 150th anniversary of the battle. I hope to be able to soak up some of the sesquicentennial vibe without having to be there in the middle of all that craziness the following week.  This year I am going to be working with a group of high school students, who will be taking part in the conference. It’s nice to have a chance to be filmed for C-SPAN, but I much prefer a classroom setting where I can interact with students.

I am going to use the opportunity to introduce students to the subject of Civil War memory by having them compare Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address with Woodrow Wilson’s 1914 address from the 50th anniversary. The text is below, but as you read it think about how you would introduce this speech to a group of students.

  • What questions would you ask to frame the two documents?
  • What sentences, phrases, or words stand out to you and why?
  • What was Wilson’s goal in addressing his audience in 1914?
  • What events would you reference to frame the historical context of this speech?

Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts. Continue reading “The Other Gettysburg Address”

Advertising at Civil War Memory

Just a quick note to let all of you know that I am no longer featuring advertisements on the blog.  The two remaining ads on the sidebar will be allowed to expire over the next few months and that will be it.  I want to take the design of the site in a different direction.  Thanks to everyone who took out an ad over the past three years, especially the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop, the University of North Carolina Press, Civil War Institute, Virginia Foundation For the Humanities and Civil War Trust.  As far as I am concerned there was never a conflict of interest since I supported and used just about every product.  The extra cash was a huge help, especially over the past two years as I transitioned to life here in Boston, but now that I’ve secured full-time employment for the coming school year that is no longer an immediate need.  More on that later. Continue reading “Advertising at Civil War Memory”

Happy New Year!

577830_10151380103133554_209543075_n

Just arrived home from a wonderful 10-day trip to Germany.  My wife and I spent time with family in Bremen before moving on to Bonn/Koenigswinter and Frankfurt.  This was my first trip to Germany during Christmas and I have to say that this Jewish kid from New Jersey was impressed.  There really is something special about the way Germans celebrate the season, from decorating their trees with real candles to meeting friends and family at the local Christmas market.  It’s much less commercial and much more family oriented.

The food was simply amazing.  I could easily hibernate for the rest of the winter on the amount of Bratkartoffeln and German meats that I ate during the week.  And let’s not even go into the pastries, chocolates and cookies.  Every morning started with a relaxing trip to the local cafe.  No one bothers you with a check or with having to vacate your table.  You can sit as long as you like.  My kind of place.  As always I am sad at having to return.  I find Germany to be completely absorbing and I can even envision spending a year abroad if the opportunity ever presents itself.

On this 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation I want to wish all of you a Happy New Year.  Let’s make it a good one.

For now it’s off to bed.

Giving Disqus Another Shot

You will notice that I am giving the Disqus commenting platform another try.  I’ve been using Disqus over at the Atlantic and I have not had any problems.  In the past the biggest drawback was the speed with which comments loaded, but that does not seem to be any longer an issue.  The interface has also been streamlined, which I like a lot.  I recommend playing around a bit by leaving a comment or two on this post.

Some of you will notice that I removed the Recent Comments feature from the sidebar.  The standard WordPress widget is not compatible and Disqus no longer supports their own, which I do not understand.  I am looking into possible solutions, but for now I recommend subscribing to the comments for those posts that are of interest.  You can subscribe via feed or email, which you will find at the end of the thread.  Of course, I will monitor things from my end, but let me know if there are any problems and/or if this is going to seriously hamper your Civil War memory experience.

God’s Blessing Liberty, God’s Curse Slavery

I am spending the day putting together maps for an animated video that will cover westward expansion and slavery from the passage of the Northwest Ordinance through to the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854.  Along the way I came across this wonderful map that was produced for Congress in 1888.   This is a wonderful example of selective memory in the post-Civil War period and a reminder that emancipation and the end of slavery constituted an important outcome of the war for many.  According to this map the eventual divide between North and South over slavery had its roots int he formation of both Massachusetts and Virginia.  The tree of slavery was planted at Jamestown in 1619; while the Pilgrims at Plymouth in 1620 planted a tree of liberty that would eventually stretch across the nation. The text at the bottom of the map explains the allegory and associates the Republican Party with the liberty tree. Here is a little taste.

In time a dispute arose between the two colonies as to whose tree should grow so large that it would occupy all the land.  Slavery with its attendant evils would overshadow the land with darkness, while Liberty with its manifold blessings would send a flood of light over the whole country.

 

At one time it appeared that the tree of Slavery would gain the supremacy, but God cursed that tree and it soon began to lean southward.  Its friends then tried to prop it up, but it still continued to lean and showed signs that it would fall.  This made the Southern man jealous and he decided to murder his Northern brother, as Cain of old had done his brother Abel.  For this sin God send a black mark upon Cain and sent Father Abraham with his big emancipation axe to cut the tree of Slavery down.

This would be an incredible classroom resource to introduce kids to issues of historical memory.  You can discuss the extent to which the map simplifies the history of slavery during the 250 year period leading up to the war.  Why was this map produced for the federal government and what did Republicans hope to do with it?  Why does the map not include any references to the existence of slavery in the north during the colonial era and right down through the early part of the nineteenth century?  How has this shaped and reinforced our own view of what the war was about and who we believe was right and wrong?