We expend a great deal of energy re-casting Confederate soldiers as engaged in a constitutional struggle or defense of home that had nothing to do with the protection of slavery. The price we pay is to ignore what actual Confederates said during the war about the consequences of slavery’s demise and their efforts to re-build a society around white supremacy in the years after.
By the time this story was published monuments were being raised across the former Confederate states in celebration of the bravery and sacrifice of the men who with every victory brought their nation closer to establishing a slaveholding republic around white supremacy. That cause did not end with the furling of flags at Appomattox.
Those communities that have chosen to remove or relocate Confederate monuments now have the opportunity to take a closer look at this history and decide how to re-shape their public spaces and even add to those empty pedestals.
Despite the headlines, the Liberty Place Monument does not directly commemorate the Confederacy. Properly understood, it commemorates an event that took place during Reconstruction in New Orleans. This is an important distinction with the other three monuments commemorating Generals Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard and President Jefferson Davis. Continue reading
If you are a history teacher looking for a summer professional development opportunity, I encourage you to consider Ford’s Theatre’s “The Seat of War and Peace,” which runs from July 23-28. This is a unique opportunity to study the history of Reconstruction in and around the Washington, D.C. area. Continue reading
This week has brought some wonderful new resources on Reconstruction. First, check out this panel discussion from last month at the New York Historical Society that included Harold Holzer, Edna Medford, Eric Foner, and David Blight. Those are some heavy hitters. Continue reading
By now most of you know that just a few days ago President Obama designated Beaufort, South Carolina as the Reconstruction Era National Monument. A community of historians and politicians have worked hard to push the president to make this decision and I could not be more pleased that he has done so as one of the final acts of his presidency. Continue reading
This past week The Washington Post added its name to a growing list of individuals and institutions who would like to see President Obama designate a federal monument to Reconstruction. Most believe that it should be located in Beaufort, South Carolina. The area in and around Beaufort is an ideal setting in which to teach this neglected and misunderstood period of American history following the Civil War.
Most people who learn about Reconstruction, however, will do so by reading a book. There are a number of very good books available by Eric Foner, Mark Summers, Douglas Egerton, Charles Lane, and Philip Dray, to name just a few. . Continue reading
This has to be one of the more interesting postwar references to Confederate camp slaves that I have uncovered. Henry Grady was an Atlanta newspaper editor, but he was best known as a leading voice in the “New South” movement, which embraced industrial development through northern investment. The challenge for men like Grady was in reassuring white southerners in the period following Reconstruction that such changes would not threaten traditional values or upset what was a fragile racial hierarchy. Continue reading
Earlier today a reader asked how he might utilize this video of Eric Foner exploring the topic of “racial amnesia” throughout American history with his students. What follows are just a couple of quick thoughts about how you might go about this.
One way is to have students view it alongside a particular selection from W.E.B. DuBois’s book, Black Reconstruction in America: 1860-1880 (1935). At the very end, DuBois includes excerpts from history textbooks in use in the 1930s that cover Reconstruction. Continue reading