Teaching the Confederate Flag Controversy

Schools across the United States are dealing with the question of what to do about displays of the Confederate flag on campus. Last week around two dozen students in Christiansburg, Virginia were suspended and this week a school in Michigan requested that students leave the flag at home. Unfortunately, we are hearing little to nothing about whether schools are taking the opportunity to educate their students about this controversy. This is a unique opportunity for history/social studies departments to step in and try to help their students make sense of the long and complicated history of the Confederate flag. There are likely a number of reasons why this does not appear to be taking place. With that in mind I offer one possible approach to dealing with this issue in the classroom. Please pass this on to teachers and other educators who might be in need of some guidance. I am now scheduling talks and workshops with schools and individual classes. You can find more information about how I can help here

On July 10, 2015 the Confederate battle flag was removed from the grounds of the state capital of South Carolina in Columbia, where it had flown since 1962, following the murder of nine members of the AME Emmanuel Church in Charleston. The decision to lower the flag and the national debate that ensued concerning the display of the Confederate flag in public places was fueled by the alleged shooter’s written testimony that he hoped his actions would inspire a race war as well as the release of photographs of the individual with Confederate flags. Continue reading “Teaching the Confederate Flag Controversy”

Few Thoughts About Confederate Iconography at #AASLH2015

Yesterday’s session on the role of public historians in the ongoing debate surrounding Confederate iconography at #aaslh2015 went extremely well. We had a full house and the comments were incredibly thoughtful. I love that the participants didn’t wait for the allotted time at the end of the session. They jumped right in, which suggests that public historians have a great deal on their minds and want to be engaged.

The question of how to proceed, however, is less than certain. I sensed a fairly sharp split among the audience and even the panelists. On the one hand there is the push for context and interpretation along the narrow lines of some form of wayside exhibit. This can take many forms, but the basic assumption at work here is that historical context has the potential to defuse the strong emotions on both sides by neutralizing the site. In providing historical context we acknowledge that what may have at one point represented a community no longer does so without removing it and offending those who still find meaning in its presence. Continue reading “Few Thoughts About Confederate Iconography at #AASLH2015”

Steve Earle Declares, “Mississippi, It’s Time”

It’s been another tough week for Confederate flag advocates. Virginia unveiled the new specialty plate for the Sons of Confederate Veterans that does not include the battle flag. Why even bother. Alexandria, Virginia will no longer fly the Confederate flag on Robert E. Lee’s birthday and Confederate Memorial Day. And in Pittsylvania County (again in Virginia) a judge has ordered that a display of Confederate flags and memorabilia must be removed from its county circuit courtroom.

Way out in California, the state senate voted to ban the naming of schools and public buildings after Confederate leaders. A police officer, who was photographed wearing Confederate flag shorts, lost his appeal to be reinstated. Continue reading “Steve Earle Declares, “Mississippi, It’s Time””

Of Confederate Flags and Monuments

With the official end of summer upon us I decided to go back and list in chronological order all of the posts I have written about the ongoing debate about Confederate iconography going back to June.  I’ve been reviewing much of what I have written in preparation for a panel discussion that I will join in just a couple of weeks at the annual meeting of the American Association for State and Local History in Louisville. Participants include Bob Beatty, Dina Bailey, Steve Murray, W. Todd Groce and Eric Emerson. It promises to be an engaging discussion.

The other reason for going back is to try to make sense of what I’ve said and to see what threads, if any, can be discerned throughout. This brings me to an important point about blogging. Individual posts are very much time sensitive. They are opportunities to try out ideas and to see where things go. I’ve been pushed in different directions over the summer in response to various developments, many of which took me by surprise. In other words, you should expect that my thinking is going to evolve over time. Blogging is much more jazz improvisation than a carefully composed concerto. Continue reading “Of Confederate Flags and Monuments”

Discussing Confederate Iconography at Annual Meeting of AASLH

Although it was organized last minute, I thought some of you would like to know that I will be co-moderating a discussion on the ongoing controversy surrounding Confederate iconography at the annual meeting of the American Association for State and Local History in Louisville, Kentucky next month. The other moderator for this discussion will be Bob Beatty, who is the chief operating officer for the AASLH. A few years ago I took part in an AASLH roundtable discussion on the Civil War sesquicentennial and had a wonderful time. Continue reading “Discussing Confederate Iconography at Annual Meeting of AASLH”