Last Saturday Megan Kate Nelson, my wife and I went to see Suzan Lori Parks’s three-act play, “Father Comes Home From the Wars.” I don’t want to give too much away about the plot beyond the fact that the central character is a slave, who at the beginning of the first act struggles with whether he is going to go off to war with his master/Confederate colonel. Oh, and the slave, whose name is Hero, is also donning a Confederate uniform.
Following the show we enjoyed a talkback with members of the cast. Unfortunately, we missed another post-production discussion the following day with Parks, along with Henry Louis Gates and Eric Foner. The discussion kicked off with some thoughts about the current debate about black Confederates.
On one level the focus of the discussion was unfortunate. At no time is Hero’s struggle about whether he can support or serve the Confederacy and the decision has nothing to do with him serving as a soldier. Rather, it serves as the foundation for his relationship with his master, which evolves significantly during the show. It’s confusing, in part, because Hero wears a uniform, but we know of a number of slaves, including, most famously, Silas Chandler, who were outfitted in military dress. The opening act offers an opportunity to explore the complexity of the master-slave relationship and not that of the relationship between slaves and the Confederacy. Continue reading →
In this brief video clip Eric Foner talks with one of his graduate students about the crucial role slavery played in the formation and defeat of the Confederacy. Included is a reference to the debate surrounding the recruitment of slaves into the army. The reference to McCurry is Stephanie McCurry’s, Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South. This looks to be part of Foner’s ongoing MOOC course.
I hope some of you have the time to take advantage of another opportunity to study the Civil War Era with one of the most prominent scholars in the field. The course is free and begins tomorrow. The video is well worth watching, especially the second half in which Foner reflects on the influence of his family’s history on his scholarly interests. Wish I had the time to take it.
Last night Judge Andrew Napolitano returned to The Daily Show a week after Stewart’s segment in which he critiqued some of the judge’s most problematic claims about Lincoln and the war. You can watch the interview [and here] as well as the little game show skit featuring Napolitano and a panel of historians, including Eric Foner, Manisha Sinha, and James Oakes. Continue reading →
The following clip was pulled from a recent NEH panel on the legacy of emancipation. It included Ed Ayers, Gary Gallagher, Christy Coleman, Eric Foner, and Thavolia Glymph. I highly recommend viewing the entire session if you have the time, but for now check out this short clip from the Q&A. In it an African-American student asks if we should still associate racism with Confederate heritage. I am not surprised that Christy Coleman, president of the American Civil War Center, decided to respond and she does so in a very fair and balanced manner. Coleman’s response reflects both the difficulties of her position as a black woman running a Civil War museum in the former capital of the Confederacy and someone who has listened closely to visitors hailing from very different backgrounds. Yeah, count me as a fan of Christy Coleman.