Which Museum of the Confederacy Are You Protesting?

As many of you know I am a big fan of the Museum of the Confederacy.  In recent years the leadership of the museum as well as their staff have done an admirable job of steering the institution from one of advocacy for a traditional view of the Confederate past to one that promotes and awards the latest scholarship about the history of the Confederacy.  So, you can imagine my surprise when I discovered that, if chosen, Edward Sebesta would refuse to accept the MOC’s Jefferson Davis Award for Civil War scholarship.  You can read Sebesta’s post for yourself, but here is the letter:

I am writing you to tell you that I do not want any book of mine to be considered for any award by the Museum of the Confederacy. More specifically I don’t want “The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader,” co-edited by Edward H. Sebesta and James Loewen, University Press of Mississippi considered for an award by the Museum of the Confederacy either for 2010, or in the future.

Not to be presumptuous that the “Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader,” would win any award from the Museum of the Confederacy, but if the book did win some type of award, I would reject the award publically and use the occasion to criticize the Museum of the Confederacy.  Finally, I should let you know that in debate with James McPherson, noted Civil War historian, I have spoken out against the Museum of the Confederacy on Pacifica Radio Network.

The link that Sebesta provides laying out his theory of “banal white nationalism” fails to yield much of anything that addresses the Museum of the Confederacy specifically.

I have to say that I am at a loss as to why Sebesta has taken such a strong stance against the MOC.  Over the past ten years I’ve visited the museum on multiple occasions.  I’ve conducted research in the library and have even brought my classes to explore its impressive collection of artifacts.  One of my former students is currently working as an intern in the research library.  I am good friends with a number of its staff and I have nothing but the highest respect for the difficult work that they do.  A few weeks ago I shared a stage with CEO, Waite Rawls, whose Confederate lineage is deep, but who understands that his role is to further historical understanding and not mythology.  I would recommend any of their professional programs, including their annual Teachers Institute.  It is impossible for me to imagine a more impressive line-up of scholars who have shared their knowledge in various public symposia.  Finally, it is impossible for me to imagine a serious scholar, who would not be honored to join the prestigious list of previous Jefferson Davis book award winners.

It would be interesting to know what James Loewen, who is the co-editor of the The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader: The “Great Truth” about the “Lost Cause, thinks of this stance.  To be honest, it looks like this book has much more of Loewen’s imprint on it than Sebesta’s.

Thanks to Ed Sebesta for reminding me that I need to renew my membership with the Museum of the Confederacy.

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13 comments… add one
  • Ole Roy Dec 9, 2010 @ 10:23

    The Man from Austin seems to become more bizarre with each passing decade.

  • Will Stoutamire Dec 8, 2010 @ 23:19

    Kevin, great post. I’ve been lurking on your blog for some time and have finally gotten up the gumption to comment. I’m a doctoral student studying Civil War memory and working with Dr. Simpson; nice to see he’s a regular here.

    I’ve had multiple iterations of this email forwarded to me over the last couple of days, soliciting responses. Having never been to the MOC, I feel uncomfortable giving comment and appreciate your firsthand perspective, which corroborates my understanding that the museum has made a remarkable, though still ongoing, change in the past few years. Mr. Sebesta seems to think this is all some grand conspiracy whereby the MOC is giving him an award for a book debunking Lost Cause mythology so as to dupe the rest of us into thinking they are anything but Lost Causers. I think Dr. Simpson’s assessment might be spot on…

    In answer to your last question, the H-Memory version of the email indicated the James Loewen wants to receive the award.

  • Jonathan Dresner Dec 7, 2010 @ 15:11

    In his post he Sebasta says “As a preliminary to better understand my opposition to the MOC I suggest people might read http://www.templeofdemocracy.com/breaking.htm ” But there’s nothing whatsoever there about the MoC except for a reference to something his co-author said defending it. So apparently he can’t read his own references….

    • Kevin Levin Dec 7, 2010 @ 15:14

      I reviewed the link as well and couldn’t find anything that might shed light on his position. I think Brooks is right that the guy is simply looking for attention. Still, I really would love to know what James Loewen thinks of his stance.

  • Patrick Lewis Dec 7, 2010 @ 3:40

    Wow. Michael nailed it. How utterly classless and misinformed. That’s just shocking.

    Wait, does this put Ed in the ranks alongside the neo-Confeds he seems to despise in criticizing the mission and scholarship of the new MOC?

    • Kevin Levin Dec 7, 2010 @ 3:45

      It suggests a complete misunderstanding of the MOC’s mission and what it strives to accomplish on a daily basis. He completely missed the mark. Sebesta misses the mark because, in the end, he really isn’t that interested in history. At least I’ve never read anything that goes beyond his focus on modern day “Neo-Confederate” organizations.

  • Michael Lynch Dec 6, 2010 @ 19:49

    This is one of the most bizarre stunts I’ve ever seen. It betrays both a complete misunderstanding of the sort of institution the MOC has become and an utter lack of class.


  • James F. Epperson Dec 6, 2010 @ 17:28

    Sebasta is simply virulently opposed to anything or anyone associated with the Confederacy in any way. IIRC he has accused Bud Robertson of being a “neo-Confederate.”

  • Margaret D. Blough Dec 6, 2010 @ 14:45

    I’m baffled at Sebasta’s comment. I was most familiar with the MOC during John Coski’s tenure there, but it was not, in any way, a bastion of the Lost Cause. In fact, in 1996, it co=sponsored, with the Longstreet Memorial Fund, a very fair symposium on James Longstreet.

  • Brooks D. Simpson Dec 6, 2010 @ 13:09

    Ed’s just drawing attention to himself. Typical.

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