What I Told the Danville Museum of Fine Arts & History

This morning I had a pleasant conversation with the executive director of the Danville (Va.) Museum of Fine Arts & History about how to respond to public concerns regarding plans to remove a Confederate flag from the grounds. As you might expect, they have already received some angry emails and phone calls. I am not sure how they came by my name, but I was happy to listen and offer some thoughts. Here is what I shared.

  • Keep the focus on the local community. The museum’s most recent strategic plan, along with its programming, is designed to appeal to as wide a range of local residents as possible.
  • Educate the local community about why there is a need to move the Confederate flag. Be as clear and as open as possible. Bring in a speaker like John Coski, who can educate those interested about why such a move might be desirable given the goals of the museum and the racial/ethnic profile of the community.
  • Emphasize on the website and through other channels that the museum remains committed to interpreting Danville’s history in the Civil War.
  • Reach out to the local chapters of the UDC and SCV to see if there is room to work together. This is their community as well.
  • Understand that protests from individuals and groups outside the community have nothing to do with what is best for the Danville community. They have their own self-serving agendas.
  • Remember that it doesn’t take much to magnify the extent of the outrage against this planned move. The vast majority of people will likely not have a problem with this decision.

This issue should be resolved one way or the other within the next week or two.

Even in Death They Still Can’t Get It Right

Union County Marker

This past week Mattie Rice, who was a descendant of Weary Clyburn passed away. Over the past few year I wrote extensively about the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ and United Daughters of the Confederacy’s efforts to distort the history of Clyburn.

Continue reading “Even in Death They Still Can’t Get It Right”

A Victory For the Good Guys

Last week I shared the news that the iconic image of Andrew and Silas Chandler had been donated to the Library of Congress. Over the weekend The Washington Post picked up the story. The title of the article makes it perfectly clear that the image does not show two men going off to war voluntarily. What it depicts is one of the many horrors of slavery.

Chandler, Washington PostThe title of the Post article is a clear victory over the self-serving agendas of certain heritage groups such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy and a broader unwillingness and/or inability to engage in the most basic historical research. Continue reading “A Victory For the Good Guys”

The History of Confederate Flags at Washington and Lee University

A couple of documents related to the history of the display of Confederate flags at W&L’s Lee Chapel were sent to me earlier today. They detail a history that is much more complicated than what most people are aware of in the wake of the petition by students to have the flags removed. The story involves numerous stakeholders, including W&L, the Museum of the Confederacy and United Daughters of the Confederacy. Continue reading “The History of Confederate Flags at Washington and Lee University”

Did Impressed Slaves Serve the Confederacy?

jake3

I want to quickly follow up on the last post about the UDC’s recent induction of an African American woman, whose ancestor was brought into the Confederate army as a camp servant. In the post I referenced the UDC’s guidelines for membership and speculated as to whether they might be interested in welcoming the descendants of the thousands of impressed slaves who toiled for the Confederate government throughout the war. Thanks to UDC member, Betty Giragosian, for the following comment.

Kevin, my African American friend joined the UDC on the record of her great grandfather who helped build the earthworks in Gloucester, Virginia. This was giving material aid to the Confederacy. Maybe his service was not on the battlefield, but it was service, nevertheless. She told me that when she saw the earthworks for the first time she burst into tears. She is proud and happy to be a member of the UDC and we are proud to have her. She is an asset to our organization. We have never barred African Americans from membership. Someone wonders why there is a push to gain membership of African Americans. I do not think this is, that there is a push. This is a different time and place. Why not give us credit for changing for the better.

While I appreciate the comment I believe it reflects a flawed understanding of the relationship between slaves and the Confederate government. I’ve made this point before, but it bears repeating. White southerners who either volunteered or were drafted into the Confederate army served as citizens of a nation. We understand citizenship as involving a reciprocal obligation between the individual and state. The government protects the rights of the individual and maintains order and in exchange it may be necessary at certain times for citizens to come to the aid of the state in the form of military service.  Continue reading “Did Impressed Slaves Serve the Confederacy?”