This past January historian Ken Noe shared his thoughts about the Civil War centennial and the current state of the sesquicentennial at the Alabama State Archives in Montgomery, Alabama. Ken’s edited collection of essays on Alabama’s Civil War was recently published by the University of Alabama Press.
At one point in the talk Ken suggests that an oral history project focused on Americans who lived through the centennial is needed. I couldn’t agree more. It’s a great idea for a project.
I just finished watching David Blight’s Fortenbaugh Lecture at Gettysburg College, which took place back in November. His lecture, “Ambivalent about Tragedy: Bruce Catton’s Civil War and Ours” is well worth watching. His thoughts on historical writing and tragedy are particularly interesting. As usual I could have listened to him for another 75 minutes. Definitely check it out when you have the chance.
Congratulations to fellow Bostonian Nina Silber for being selected to deliver the 2014 address. She is currently researching a book on Civil War memory during the New Deal, which I can’t wait to read.
The following documentary about the history and controversy surrounding the Confederate flag in South Carolina was released in 2001. Glad to find this as I am putting my Civil War Memory course together for the spring semester. The documentary does a great job exploring the raising of the flag atop the state capital and the influence of both the Civil Rights Movement and Civil War Centennial. John Coski gets a good deal of air time to discuss the popularity and evolution of the Confederate flag as well as the fact that ordinary Americans utilized it as a symbol of “massive resistance” during the 1950s and 60s. He also does a first-rate job of dismantling the black Confederate narrative at the 27:00 min. mark.
Here is a wonderful little time capsule from the eve of the Civil War centennial in 1960. Those of you who teach courses on Civil War memory will find it particularly interesting. There are very few surprises in how the documentary frames the causes and consequences of the war along with slavery and emancipation. The need to maintain a national consensus at the height of the Cold War is clearly discernible. My favorite line is the claim that white northerners had difficulty on the battlefield early on owing to their unfamiliarity with guns. It turns out that before the war they were all working in shops and factories.
This morning I was perusing through the September 1963 issue of Ebony Magazine and came across this remarkable photograph of Medgar Evers and his family on the Vicksburg battlefield. Apparently, they spent a great deal of time on the battlefield. This particular issue centered on the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, which included a story about Evers on why he chose to live in Mississippi.
Outside Vicksburg, in the national military park, which entombs hundreds of Civil War dead–from Mississippi, Illinois, both sides of the struggle–Evers strolls with sightseers over the bones of the dead, is drawn to “our spot” where he and his wife courted, politely answers the questions of a white man, whose ten gallon hat and deep drawl identify him as one of the “enemy.” (pp. 146-47)