Last night the city of Charleston issued a formal apology for its role in the slave trade. Among its many horrors was the forced separation of innocent children from their parents at every stage of this process from the beginning of the Middle Passage to their sale at auction blocks across what became the United States of America. All of this was perfectly legal and sanctioned by the Church. Continue reading
Update: Thanks to the commenter below who clarified that individuals are not “made” veterans. They are veterans owing to their service. In this case, service in the United States army.
It is absurd to think that Memorial Day is a day to honor Confederates who fell in battle along side the white and black Americans who gave their lives to defend and ultimately save this country between 1861 and 1865. Many today base this belief on a supposed step taken by Congress in 1958 that gave Confederate veterans equal status under law to that of U.S. veterans. They did not. Continue reading
Reports out of Charleston today indicate that the city’s commission to add a contextual panel to the John C. Calhoun has been finalized. Not surprising, this has been a contentious process from the beginning. It ended with the decision to remove what some people believe to be the most important reference to the monument as a “relic of the crime against humanity.” Continue reading
I recently returned from a trip to Charleston, South Carolina, where I spent time with a group of high school students contending with the ongoing debate over Confederate monuments. Over the past two years I have worked with teachers and students from all over the country, but Charleston presented its own unique challenges. This is the city where the fire of secession was first kindled. Roughly 40 percent of the enslaved Africans brought to what became the United States arrived on nearby Sullivan’s Island. The first shots of the Civil War were fired at Fort Sumter, overlooking Charleston. Monuments celebrating the Confederate cause define the city’s commemorative landscape. They include a monument to John C. Calhoun, who famously boasted that the institution was nothing to apologize for, that it was a “positive good.” About a block away from the Calhoun monument on June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof murdered nine people during a prayer service at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
You can read the rest of my latest op-ed at Bunk History.
It is somewhat amusing to listen to people who have suddenly awoken to the fact that there are monuments to Confederate politicians, generals and common soldiers in their own communities. Many have chosen to voice their outrage by calling for monuments to be torn down and/or removed from public land. Since my recent trip to Europe I’ve become more sensitive to these concerns, though I still maintain that the preferred course ought to be the addition of signage that explains the relevant history of both the object of commemoration and the monument itself. More importantly, a number of communities have already moved to add to their memorial landscapes. Such is the case in Richmond, Virginia. Continue reading
Calls to take down the Confederate flag battle flag have quickly extended to monuments to the Confederacy, most of which dot local court houses, parks, and other public spaces. Many have been vandalized with the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter”. The only city that has moved to take down a Confederate monument is Birmingham, Alabama, which did so last night. Other cities, including Baltimore, Memphis, and St. Louis will take up the issue in the coming days and weeks.
My position has remained consistent on the removal of Confederate monuments. Others like Karen Cox, Ethan Kytle and Blain Roberts have staked out their positions, which are well worth reading. Although I tend to resist removal I do not believe that monuments are timeless. Certainly, few Americans take issue with the symbolic gesture surrounding the pulling down of a statue to King George III at the very birth of our Revolution. No collective act more powerfully signaled a break with the past in 1776 short of war? Continue reading
We have heard quite a bit from Sons of Confederate Veterans over the past week in response to the debate over the Confederate flag on the state house grounds in Columbia, South Carolina and beyond. Members claim a direct ancestral connection to Confederate soldiers, which they believe translates into some kind of privileged status regarding all things heritage.
Silent on these issues has been that other venerable Confederate heritage organization, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, founded two years before the SCV in 1894. [The best history of the organization is Karen Cox’s Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture.] Their silence surrounding the Confederate flag debate is curious given their consistent position limiting the display of the battle flag. The UDC’s position was born out of a concern that any use strictly apart from carefully orchestrated ceremonial events in honor of the soldier would distort its meaning. Continue reading