This photograph was taken in Brooksville, Florida in 1989. The caption reads: “Their backs turned to the Confederate memorial, more than 500 people rally in Brooksville before stepping off for a parade on Martin Luther King Day.” The inscription on the back of the monument reads:
This monument perpetuates the memory of our fallen heroes–We care not whence they came; wether unknown or known to fame; their cause and country still the same; they died and were the gray–leaving to posterity, a glorious heritage–an imperishable record of dauntless valor.
Although not directly related to the Civil War, it is safe to say that the war looms large in this documentary. “A Sleight of History” examines the significance of Foster Auditorium, the site of George Wallace’s infamous 1963 “stand in the schoolhouse door.” The film explores the issue of historical memory in the American South and questions how we memorialize aspects of our past. Marshall Houston and Sarah Melton produced “A Sleight of History” in Spring 2009 as part of the Documenting Justice program at The University of Alabama. Click here for Sarah Melton’s article accompanying the documentary at Southern Spaces.
Whether or not Washington and Lee’s Law School closes in recognition of the national holiday in honor of Martin Luther King’s contributions to the advancement of social, political, and legal justice is entirely in the hands of the school community. The university already does quite a bit to honor the slain civil rights leader, but hopefully the administration will listen carefully to their students, who believe the closing of the school next year will send a clear message that brings home the significance of this national holiday.
And given the importance attached to their former president’s moral character, perhaps it would be helpful to ask what Robert E. Lee would do.
This is a question that Howard N. Meyer posed in the November 1961 issue of Negro Digest. It’s a thought-provoking essay that anticipates a burgeoning black counter-memory that emerged in the pages of popular magazines by 1965. It also provides a helpful reference point to gauge the evolution of Civil War memory over the past few decades. Here are a few choice quotes:
One is first tempted to say that the commission’s plans have been marked by a kind of equal treatment: reverence as much for the Stars and Bars as for the Stars and Stripes, honor as much for Jefferson Davis as for Abraham Lincoln; tributes for the Boys in Gray as for the Boys in Blue; equality, that is, for all except the Negro.
Chairman Grant is eighty years old, and apparently still accepts the ideology that prevailed during his turn-of-the-century youth: that North-South reconciliation is more important than human rights for the Negro.
What will the Civil War Centennial be like? It will last four years. Battles will be re-enacted, many on a huge scale. Colorful ceremonies will be held, exhibitions of war trophies and mementos organized. There will be memorials, parades, new historical markers and a great many special ceremonies…
The success of Southern apologists meant not merely that the Confederate side of the war was hygenized and glamorized. The cause of the North was correspondingly demeaned.
One does not have to deny the tragedy of blasted homes and lives to say that the Old South depended on an iniquitous social system that could not be tolerated in America. It does not serve America well, in the world of 1961, to ignore the evil and iniquity of slavery in marking the Centennial of the conflict.
When the firing on Fort Sumter was re-enacted, in a setting of live oaks and magnolias, who was there to remind the play-actors, in ever so small a voice, that the original shot was, after all, treason?