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 →
While interpreting the Jefferson Davis and Confederate Soldiers’ Monuments on the Alabama State House grounds a little over a week ago I couldn’t help but wonder whether this Lost Cause narrative and a growing commitment to remember the civil rights movement can co-exist. It’s hard to miss the latter in a place like Montgomery and other Southern cities. Jefferson Davis now looks down on the Rosa Parks Museum and a number of markers that remind folks of the slave trade and civil rights era. On the one hand these monuments, museums, and markers represent an evolving story about how communities choose to remember their collective pasts. At the same time it is hard not to feel the rub between the competing values that these sites represent. Continue reading →
On Sunday I head out with roughly 35 students and 3 colleagues for a 5-day tour of the Civil Rights South. We’ve been meeting with students to give them a broad outline of the history and questions that will be covered as we travel from Atlanta to Memphis.
One of my main responsibilities will be to help students make connections between the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement through a close examination of monuments and memorials. I want students to understand that the visual reminders of the civil rights struggle are fairly recent additions to the landscape and that they exist in some tension with reminders of the Civil War and the Lost Cause. Continue reading →
Beauvoir’s recovery from Hurricane Katrina was never a certainty. Yet until just a few weeks ago, it seemed Beauvoir had not only regained lost ground, but was advancing as never before. Now Beauvoir, a landmark on the beachfront since 1852, appears to be in full retreat.
Katrina’s storm surge destroyed five of the seven buildings on the grounds of the Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library. It left the two still standing — Beauvoir itself and the new presidential library-museum — heavily damaged. While it was determined that Beauvoir, Davis’ last home, could be restored, it was decided the library-museum building would have to be demolished and rebuilt a little higher above, and a little further from the shoreline. Money could and would accomplish those feats. Continue reading →
All is not well at Jefferson Davis’s postwar home of Beauvoir. [The website is downright ugly.] The news article linked to here is poorly written so it is difficult to piece together the nature of the dispute, but there seems to be a rift between Bertram Hayes-Davis (the former president’s great-great-grandson) and the Mississippi Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, which owns the site. Continue reading →