Earlier today Edward Sebesta posted some commentary on a recent controversy over the management of Jefferson Davis’s postwar home at Beauvoir. I also commented on this story back in March and was highly critical of the Mississippi SCV. Apparently, that wasn’t enough for Sebesta, who takes issue with my belief that the home deserves to be “professionally interpreted.”
Levin believes himself to be a member of the elite interpreters of the Civil War and is upset that Beauvoir isn’t going to be interpreted by people like him. Note his terms “professionally interpreted” and “respectfully and tastefully.” He would be quite happy with Beauvoir continuing to be used as a Confederate shrine by “professional” interpreters as he is with the Museum of the Confederacy being a Confederate shrine.
This is not the first time that I’ve been accused of being an “elitist” but it is funny to hear it from Ed rather than the usual folks. I do believe that Beauvoir deserves to be preserved and interpreted so as to give visitors a sense of the location’s importance both to Davis and to the memory of the Confederacy. Continue reading
One of my favorite places to take students in Charlottesville was the University of Virginia’s Confederate Cemetery. It was a short walk and it allowed me to talk about wartime hospitals as well as postwar mourning and the evolution of the Lost Cause. I encouraged my students to look at and think about the headstones and to pick up trash. The men were buried in long trenches and when the cemetery was dedicated there were no individual headstones. That gradually changed and in recent years the local SCV has organized to order new markers from the federal government. The project continues, in part, with the financial support of the federal government. It’s a program that I contributed to on more than once occasion while in Charlottesville. Continue reading
Today is quickly turning into another whacky day in the blogosphere. My WordPress dashboard showed a link from Edward Sebesta’s Anti-Neo-Confederate blog. When I clicked over I was shocked to find that I am referred to as a “white nationalist.” Imagine my surprise. Apparently, Ed is not happy with my recent post in response to Jamie Malanowski’s editorial on the changing of the names of military bases.
First, he can’t even spell my last name correctly, but how he arrives at white nationalist based on this post is anyone’s guess. I’ve been called plenty of things over the years, but this is the first time that I’ve been referred to as a white nationalist.
Sebesta is, indeed, a strange character. This leaves me to wonder whether the guy has a few screws loose.
Union Soldier in Forrest Hills Cemetery by Milmore
This editorial by Jamie Malanowski, which appeared today in the New York Times, reminds me of Edward Sebesta’s petition to have President Obama end the practice of sending a wreath to the Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. In the end it stirs up emotions, but fails to produce anything constructive. Malanowski’s contribution to our collective conscience this Memorial Day weekend is to remind the public that 10 military bases located around the country are named after Confederate generals. And you guessed it, those names need to be changed.
Malanowski begins with the questionable assumption that the “humble idea” of decorating graves “quickly spread throughout the country, and the recognition of common loss helped reconcile North and South.” It didn’t. Decoration Days were incredibly divisive throughout the period between the 1860s and the early twentieth century. Recent studies by Caroline Janney, William Blair, and John Neff suggest why this was the case.
It’s not that I am against changing the names of public places, but in most cases the push is local. For example, consider the recent controversy in Memphis, Tennessee surrounding the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest Park. These are questions that need to be resolved by the members of the community. Continue reading
Update: Leave it to Ta-Nehisi Coates to remind us of just how silly this project actually is.
Anti-Neo-Confederate crusader Edward Sebesta is best known for his push to petition President Obama to cease sending a wreath to the Confederate memorial at Arlington as well as his claim that the Museum of the Confederacy is mired in Lost Cause nostalgia. Now Sebesta and Euan Hague are hoping to rid juries of racial bias by identifying Confederate/Lost Cause bias among potential jurors. Continue reading