Back in November Waite Rawls and Christy Coleman announced a planned merger between Richmond’s Museum of the Confederacy and American Civil War Center. In an interview with Civil War News Rawls discussed what it means for the MOC and alluded to some of the controversy surrounding the decision:
“Will all our members support what we do in the future? No,” Rawls said. “Will some object? Yes.” “Will many more think it is great? Yes.” Rawls continued, “We have 5,000 members. My purpose as an entity is not to satisfy the least common denominator, but to do what is the best long-term good for the entirety. That’s what the CWH board will do.” “For the folks who say, ‘We wish you were only Confederate,’ we have bigger sights in mind,” he said. “We think we can do a better job educating people about the Confederacy if we tell the whole story of the Civil War.”
Using the analogy of preserving a Civil War battlefield, Rawls asked rhetorically, “How good a job would we do if we only preserved the Confederate half of it?” Noting that heritage groups like the Sons of Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy have a different purpose than a museum, Rawls said, “Their mission is to honor their ancestors. Our mission is to use this collection to educate the public.” He acknowledged, “The heritage groups would like us to be a heritage group, but we’re not.” “People who walk in the front door may not know which century [the Civil War] happened in,” according to Rawls. “Their ancestor may have fought in a civil war in Ireland or Thailand.” He mentioned a Japanese-American man interviewed on PBS who said he didn’t understand America until he watched the Ken Burns Civil War series. “That’s a powerful thing. I want to influence people like that. That’s what this institution is for.”
Last week I pointed out what I interpreted as a racist comment from a prominent member of the Virginia Flaggers. A few days ago they offered the following response, which included a photograph of an African-American man carrying a Confederate flag in front of the Museum of the Confederacy.
I certainly don’t want to be known for casually accusing people of being racist, but I fail to see how this photograph assuages concerns. The Richmond community – who the Flaggers claim to be improving through their efforts – deserve a response to these types of statements. What exactly did the statement mean? How would this specific Flagger explain it to the individual in front of the MOC and the rest of Richmond’s black community?
Who are the Virginia Flaggers?
Most people here know that I am a big fan of American Civil War Center Director Christy Coleman. She is a passionate advocate for Civil War history and the city of Richmond. More importantly, Christy is an advocate for the healing power of history and its potential to bring communities closer together. The recent news that Christy and Waite Rawls of the Museum of the Confederacy are joining forces to open a new Civil War museum in the city means that we will be hearing much more from her in the coming months.
This is a talk that Christy gave back in September as part of a local TED talk in Richmond. The video was made available on YouTube yesterday. Enjoy.
Rumors of a merger between the two museums have been in the air for the past few months, but today it’s official. The Museum of the Confederacy and American Civil War Center will join forces to create one new museum on the grounds at Tredegar, along the James River. No one who has followed the problems plaguing the MOC over the past few years will be surprised by this decision. I have nothing but the utmost respect for Christy Coleman and Waite Rawls as public historians and as caretakers of Richmond’s rich Civil War past. With the help of individuals like Ed Ayers and others, Richmond is guaranteed a respectable and attractive new addition to its museum landscape. Continue reading
Earlier today the Museum of the Confederacy held their symposium to determine 1863′s Person of the Year. Most of the choices were once again predictable, though a few are just downright odd to me. Robert Krick’s selection of Stonewall Jackson is neither surprising or interesting in any way. I want to hear more about why Jennifer Weber believes Clement Vallindigham is so important. Ed Ayers decided to change things up by giving a nod to the United States Colored Troops. That makes perfect sense to me. Here is the final tally.
Joe Glatthaar should have had it much easier by selecting Ulysses S. Grant, who is the logical choice. Jackson coming in a close second is just downright bizarre. And how the USCTs placed last even with a charismatic advocate like Ed Ayers is inexplicable to me. Oh well.
I am sure everyone had a fun time, which is ultimately what this is all about.