Tag Archives: Sons of Confederate Veterans

Fellow Southerners!

Battle of Spotsylvania

It should come as no surprise that a National Air and Space Museum exhibit centered around the Enola Gay and the dropping of the Atomic Bomb would cause controversy in the mid-1990s.  Many of the veterans of WWII were still alive and the issue itself tugged at how Americans saw themselves as moral leaders on the world stage.  Ignoring some of the legitimate concerns with how the event was interpreted by the NASM, it is clear that Americans were simply too close to the event in question to allow for the kind of historical objectivity that the historians, curators, and other professionals hoped to bring to the exhibit. The debate that took place in the halls of the Senate, House of Representatives as well as countless newspapers and magazines provides the perfect case study for what happens when a historical interpretation comes up against a narrative that is rooted in a personal connection to the past that is still very much part of the event itself.  We can see this at work in how the events of 9-11 are commemorated as well.

It is interesting that after 150 years many Americans are committed to framing some of the central questions about the Civil War in personal terms.  Typically this connection is framed as a defense of an ancestor who fought on one side or another; implied is a belief in some sort of privileged connection to historical truth.  I’ve argued in a number of places that our collective understanding has undergone profound shifts in recent years and that we are beginning to take on a more detached stance in regard to the events of the 1860s, but the cries of “heritage violations” can still be heard.  While I have some respect for those who take themselves to be deeply rooted in a personal past, the rhetoric is itself sounding more and more anachronistic.

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North Carolina’s Other Civil War Sesquicentennial

After Virginia no other state has done more to commemorate the American Civil War than North Carolina.  Their state commission has done an excellent job thus far of organizing activities that reflect an incredibly rich and complex past.  They are doing their very best to make the war relevant to the state’s diverse population by focusing on a wide range of themes from the military to race to memory.  I have a number of friends who are directly involved in the commission’s work and I can say with confidene that they are making an impact on a number of levels.

Even with all the work this group has undertaken it appears that not everyone is satisfied.  In fact, there are two Civil War sesquicentennial commemorations taking place in North Carolina.  The other one is being called the North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial and they even have their own website.  The commission is headed by Bernhard Thuersam, who works as a home designer.  So, why an alternative commemoration?

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How Does Confederate History Mesh With Black History?

The following documentary by filmmaker Shukree Tilghman will air on New Hampshire Public Television on February 12, 2012.  It looks to be pretty interesting.  Watch the trailer for some truly bizarre claims made by the Sons of Confederate Veterans.  My personal favorite: “After the war there was a major move to squash Confederate history.”  Only someone completely ignorant to the trajectory of Civil War memory could make such a ridiculous claim.

 

The End of Confederate Heritage

The reason why the members of the first generation of Sons of Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy emphasized such a strict code governing the display of the Confederate flag was that they understood the risks of it being appropriated in a way that threatened to disconnect it from its Civil War roots.  By the 1950s and 60s that battle had clearly been lost through its use as a symbol of Massive Resistance and later through its appearance on everything from cigarette lighters to bikini bottoms.  This story of a black University of South Carolina Beaufort student who chose to display a Confederate flag in his dorm window is but the latest example of this gradual decline.

So here we have a flag that was carried by the military arm of a government pledged to defend slavery and white supremacy and that remained a symbol of racism and hatred for this student’s parents has now become little more than a colorful rag in the hands of a young black man.  What does the flag mean to him?

“When I look at this flag, I don’t see racism. I see respect, Southern pride,” he said. “This flag was seen as a communication symbol” during the Civil War.

“I’ve been getting a lot of support from people. My generation is interested in freedom of speech,” Thomas said.

“I think he’s got a really good point. It’s just a flag, and in and of itself, it doesn’t have any racial meaning. It only has as much meaning as you put into it,” said Reed.

That’s about it.  The flag was a “communication symbol”… you know, guys waved them back and forth to send signals.  The student in question doesn’t seem to have any interest in the Confederate war nor does his display of the flag seem to have much to do with the Civil War era at all.  So much for Confederate/Southern heritage.  That hasn’t prevented the Confederate heritage community from embracing him as their latest hero.  In the past few weeks the most popular defenders of Confederate heritage include a middle school student from New Jersey and now this guy.  Hilarious!

 

The Confederate Flag Belongs To Rev. G.V. Clark

Rev. G.V. Clark of Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Austin testifies before the Texas DMV board of directors against a Confederate flag license plate sponsored by the Sons of Confederate Veterans.  This is for anyone who believes that they alone or as a group have a monopoly on the meaning of the Confederate flag.