This little story from Maggie Rioux of Falmouth appeared this morning in The Boston Globe. It’s innocent enough.
Last May, my husband and I were on a bus tour of Vicksburg, Mississippi, and the tour guide still seemed to be fighting the Civil War (at least for professional purposes). She kept referring to us as Yankees. After awhile, I’d had enough and piped up: “That’s a major insult. We’re not Yankees. We’re from the Boston area. We’re Red Sox people.” We didn’t hear another word about Yankees all morning.
I remember a similar experience a few years ago while on a tour in the historic section of Charleston, South Carolina. The guide continually referred to us as “Yankees” and even once as “invaders.” At the end of the tour I asked if he was native to the city/region. Turns out he was born in Pennsylvania and had been living in the city for around twenty years.
Photo taken at the 2010 meeting of the National Federation of Republican Women in Charleston, SC.
Update: Interesting story on the pressure that is being exerted by McConnell’s allies on College of Charleston.
The College of Charleston is looking for a new president and a number of state legislators are pushing the school to consider Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell. The question raised in this article is whether his involvement with Confederate heritage groups and support of the Confederate flag reflects the school’s values and commitment to diversity. McConnell has to apply for the position by Jan. 14, but if he does the outcome of his candidacy will tell us a great deal about the state of Confederate heritage in South Carolina politics and culture. Continue reading
I am putting the finishing touches on my Crisis at Fort Sumter simulation, which my students will work on throughout this week and present next Tuesday. Thanks to those of you who offered suggestions on primary and secondary sources. One of the documents that I am including comes from William Freehling and Craig Simpson’s edited collection of speeches from the Virginia State Convention that met in early 1861 to discuss the secession crisis. I want my class to reflect on the importance of maintaining Virginia in the Union along with the rest of the Upper South. On April 4 the Virginia convention voted 88 – 45 to remain in the Union.
Included in their documents is an excerpt from a speech given by Representative Chapman Stuart of
Augusta County Tyler and Doddridge counties on April 5. What I like about this document is that it first reminds us that slavery was central to the concerns of this group. Most convention members would certainly have disagreed with folks today who deny the centrality of slavery in the deliberations of Virginians in the wake of Lincoln’s election and inauguration and in contrast with those states that viewed the Republican Party as an immediate threat. What they miss is the fact that many conditional and unconditional Unionists believed that the institution of slavery was safer in the Union.
Chapman owned no slaves and yet he puts forth a vigorous defense of the institution and a commitment to working with colleagues from the Tidewater who owned the majority of Virginia’s slaves. I hope my students are able to use this document to reinforce a line of argument that cautions Lincoln not to threaten the loyalty of those who up to this point have prevented Virginia from seceding. Stuart references the strong desire of his constituents, who hope to maintain ties with the North. Of course, that could easily be challenged depending on how the situation develops in Charleston and the types of choices white Southerners are forced to confront as a result.
Now before some of you get up in arms, read the story. I had no idea that the Sons of Confederate Veterans purchased Castle Pinckney last year from the State Port Authority. What they plan to do with it is unknown, but for now they will erect a couple of poles on which will fly period flags. The one flag that will not be flown will be the Confederate battle flag. Why? According to Philip Middleton, commander of the SCV’s Fort Sumter Camp:
“We’re not going to put anything up [battle flag] that’s going to be a stick in anybody’s eye. We’re going to be putting up flags that were historically correct…. We’ve pretty much ruled that out for the time being. The only reason we’d be doing that would be to make a statement, and I don’t think we need to be doing that.”
You mean they are not going to use the opportunity to erect one of those big-ass Confederate flags? Sounds to me like the Virginia Flaggers need to make a trip to Charleston to preserve the honor or whatever it is they do.
In the meantime, it’s nice to hear that not everyone in the SCV suffers from an unhealthy obsession with the Confederate flag.
As part of my recent weekend with the Civil War Trust I took part in a tour of downtown Charleston. The organization made arrangements with a number of guides, most of which were at least somewhat knowledgeable. Unfortunately, my guide was an absolute disgrace and at times reckless with his interpretation of one of the most important historic sites in the city.
I guess it was an attempt to be charming, but at the beginning of the tour our guide asked us where we were from. In my case, he called me an abolitionist scoundrel, but thanked me for his job. I guess he was acknowledging the importance of tourism to the local economy. This was followed by a request to the group to hiss whenever William T. Sherman’s name was mentioned. I obliged by responding with, “Saved the Union” instead of the required hiss. Finally, our guide insisted on asking us if discussing slavery was permitted since it is such a “sensitive topic.” Apparently, he was unaware that his group was made up of history teachers.
So, you can imagine my concern as we walked toward the slave market. Any guide needs to think carefully about how to present the history of the slave market based on the profile of the group in question. The subject is sensitive and interpreters must tread carefully, but the history is crucial to understanding a huge chunk of Charleston’s history. Instead of introducing the subject our guide asked us to imagine that we were slaveholders coming to market to purchase property. We were to think about what kind of slaves we were interested in purchasing. No introduction to the site. No discussion of anything having to do with the history of slavery and race relations in Charleston. What I couldn’t believe was that the teachers in the group actually responded to this inane question. Finally, our guide came to me. I responded simply: “I am not interested in buying a slave.” Once we had finished this little imaginative exercise I asked the guide if he could talk a bit about how this may have looked from a slave’s point-of-view. He clearly knew very little. It was a surreal experience.
At the end of the tour our guide asked if I was offended back at the slave market. I think he was asking specifically if I was offended by the mere discussion of the subject. Rather than share my thoughts I simply thanked him for the tour and walked away. If you are going to Charleston make sure your tour of the city is led by a competent interpreter. Perhaps some of you who are more familiar with the city can offer some suggestions.
This was just one guide on one tour, but I suspect that this is a case of where there is smoke there is fire.