Obama and Civil War Memory

A few months ago I speculated on how an Obama victory might affect how we remember our Civil War.  I suggested that the election of our first black president (regardless of political affiliation) would present us with an opportunity to remember and commemorate aspects of the war that have traditionally been downplayed, if not ignored entirely.  Obama himself has encouraged this by voicing his admiration for Doris K. Goodwin’s book, along with a recent visit to the Lincoln Memorial, and plans to follow part of the route that Lincoln took in March 1861.  Now we hear that reenactors with the 54th Massachusetts will march in the inaugural parade.  Millions of Americans will learn about the history and significance of these soldiers without any of the distraction associated with so-called black Confederates (Confederate slaves).  I couldn’t be happier for the members of the units who will take part because I know first hand what it means to them.


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6 comments… add one
  • Mannie Gentile Jan 13, 2009 @ 12:55


    I don’t know if I’ve posed this to you already.

    I wonder what impact the election of a black man as the president of the United States will have on that tedious old chestnut:

    “What would the founding fathers say?”

    Perhaps we’ll finally be able to put that bit of sophistry out to pasture.


  • Matt McKeon Jan 12, 2009 @ 13:15

    The state of Massachusetts has reactivated the 54th Massachusetts as a national guard honor unit. This unit will of course, not consist entirely of black guardsmen(and not necessarily all men, either) and will have the current uniform.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 13, 2009 @ 12:14

      I read about that a few weeks ago. Thanks

  • Bob Pollock Jan 11, 2009 @ 11:36

    I am currently reading “Forged in Battle: The Civil War Alliance of Black Soldiers and White Officers” by Joseph T. Glatthaar. Very interesting.

    I’m wondering, why are there white guys in the ranks in your photo?

    • Kevin Levin Jan 11, 2009 @ 11:38

      They look to me to be very fair in complexion. Forged in Battle is a first-rate study.

      • Bob Pollock Jan 11, 2009 @ 11:46

        I am reminded of Lincoln’s words:

        “You say A. is white, and B. is black. It is color then; the lighter, having the right to enslave the darker? Take care. By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with a fairer skin than your own.”

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