A Sesquicentennial Study in Contrasts

An official count showed about 21,015 people stood in lines with waits ranging from 3 to 7 hours to see the Emancipation Proclamation, which was on display at the The Henry Ford, in Dearborn, Michigan, for 36 straight hours.  Meanwhile, the Sons of Confederate Veterans continue their quest for vanity plates in former Confederate states and even states that never seceded.

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34 comments… add one
  • Ray Jul 1, 2011 @ 4:47

    I’m late to the party here, but I was one of the folks that stood in line to see the Emancipation Proclamation. My wait time – 4.5 hours. What was more interesting than the actual document was the make up of the crowd and chatting it up with the staff members of the Henry Ford. The crowd was a diverse mix of home schoolers, folks getting off work to see the document, African-American church groups, and lots of folks who just plain came for the document and the fact they could roam the exhibits for free that day. What was missing, were what I refer to as Civil War buffs…those folks who either belong to a Civil War Roundtable, are a “living “Historian””, or those who profess to be an arm-chair historian. Suprising to me, as these folks profess to be “experts” on the war, yet when it comes to studying the actual artifacts of the war, they are no where to be seen.

    The staff of the Henry Ford deserve kudos for being good sports, as they did not know what to expect crowd wise. What was surprising were the number of staff members who said you “couldn’t read the document” as the penmanship is horrible (not true), stated the document freed all slaves (in territories against the Union, sure; boarder states not so much), and was “more vital than the Constitution” (I didn’t even touch that one).

  • TF Smith Jun 25, 2011 @ 16:33

    How about North Americans?

  • Andy Hall Jun 25, 2011 @ 9:36

    What’s amazing is that unlike the proposed Mississippi plate honoring Nathan Bedford Forrest, the proposed Texas plate makes no mention of any historical figure, individually or collectively. It features (1) the SCV logo, and (2) the SCV name.

    This plate is about promoting the SCV, period, full stop.

    That shouldn’t be surprising, given that the SCV’s conceit is that it, and it alone, speaks on behalf of the memory of Confederate veterans and their descendants. Given that there are likely tens of millions of descendants of Confederate veterans in the United States, and perhaps only tens of thousands of active SCV members, that seems to be an singularly tendentious claim, one likely to become increasingly so as the years roll on.

    • K.P. Marshall Jun 25, 2011 @ 12:45

      Mr. Hall I think that the SCV is simply fulfilling “The Charge” given to them by the OTHER General Lee. Them claiming to speak for ALL of us is as absurd as the NAACP claiming to speak for all Black Americans.

      • Kevin Levin Jun 25, 2011 @ 12:56

        It’s really hard to see how this fulfills Stephen D. Lee’s charge – a Confederate flag next to every car exhaust. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

        • K.P. Marshall Jun 25, 2011 @ 13:28

          Kevin…I was not speaking of the plates specifically but of the SCV in general and Mr. Hall’s comment about the group speaking for all Americans who have people who wore the gray.

          • Kevin Levin Jun 25, 2011 @ 13:38


      • Andy Hall Jun 25, 2011 @ 13:23

        I’m aware of the “the Charge.” Nonetheless, it’s a conceit they embrace, and (at least in the online world) vigorously argue that criticism of them or their narrative constitutes anti-Southern “hatred,” as if they themselves constituted the South. The SCV speaks for its members, that’s all.

        I’ve never thought that the NAACP speaks for the African American community as a whole, any more that (say) Al Sharpton does. But the NAACP sure seems to be a convenient and recurring villain for the True Southrons™ — almost as much as that Yankee carpetbagger, Levin. 😉

        • K.P. Marshall Jun 25, 2011 @ 13:51

          Mr. Hall I agree that the SCV speaks only for its members. The ongoing drama between the NAACP and the SCV has more to do with the actions and words of the NAACP, in my opinion, than the SCV. “Nazi’s”, “Terrorists”, etc…………

          • Kevin Levin Jun 25, 2011 @ 13:52

            It’s seems to me that both sides could do a better job of listening to one another.

            • K.P. Marshall Jun 25, 2011 @ 14:04

              I agree with that but some things once said cannot be taken back and only make people dig their heels in and fight. The NAACP wants to eradicate all vestiges of the former Confederacy from the public spaces and they don’t have the numbers or the support to do so. The SCV wants to protect and expand these things………WHERE HAVE I HEARD THIS STORY BEFORE? LOL

              • Kevin Levin Jun 25, 2011 @ 14:06

                I have been critical of the NAACP on this site, but at the same time I believe they have legitimate points when it comes to responding to the public pronouncements and activities of the SCV. Like I said, both sides have stepped over the line at various points.

                • K.P. Marshall Jun 25, 2011 @ 14:36

                  In your opinion does the SCV have legitimate points in responding to the NAACP referring to Confederate soldiers as “Nazi’s” and “Terrorists”?

                  • Kevin Levin Jun 25, 2011 @ 14:39

                    Absolutely! In fact, I commented on a CNN commentator’s reference to Confederate soldiers as inappropriate.

  • Marianne Davis Jun 25, 2011 @ 8:53

    May I ask what seems to be obvious? Do these people who want Confederate license plates not realize where they live? They live in the United States, not in the CSA. One wonders if they are not displaying their wish to live elsewhere. In which case, may the rest of us who are content to live in the nation as it is, and as it was altered by the events of 1861-65, not be justified in resenting neo-secessionism masquerading as heritage? I see plenty of Confederate Battle flag bumper stickers side-by-side with American flags and 9/11 memorabilia. This level of cognitive dissonance is tiresome.

    • Kevin Levin Jun 25, 2011 @ 9:08

      I think you misread my comment. I don’t necessarily disagree with you.

    • timothy fish Jun 25, 2011 @ 9:14

      ms. davis, if you will, answer this for me, please.
      you say that because some people want a Confederate license plate…**One wonders if they are not displaying their wish to live elsewhere.**
      what do you say about someone who calls themselves “african-americans”….does that not say that they’d rather live in africa?

      • Kevin Levin Jun 25, 2011 @ 9:16

        And what do you say in response to those people who refer to themselves as Irish and Italian Americans?

        • timothy fish Jun 25, 2011 @ 10:04

          i’m an American of Irish descent…but you’ll never hear me refer to myself as an Irish-American. I’m an American..one word. i may have old Irish blood runnin’ theu my veins, but i was born on American soil, raised on American soil and it will be American soil that i shall be returned to.
          either you’re an American….or you ain’t!
          the choice is yours.
          i’ve made my choice.

          • Kevin Levin Jun 25, 2011 @ 10:19

            That seems rather simplistic. I see no problem whatsoever in self identifying as a hyphenated American and maintaining a deep love for country.

            • timothy fish Jun 25, 2011 @ 10:56

              it sorta like dan’l boone said…”either you’re with us or you’re against us!”
              i see no need to identify one’s self with a hyphenated name.
              either you’re American…or you’re not!!
              it’s simple as that.
              ‘Nuff Said!

              • Kevin Levin Jun 25, 2011 @ 11:05

                Whatever works for you.

          • Andy Hall Jun 25, 2011 @ 10:59

            “I’m an American..one word.”

            That’s good to know. I was afraid you might be one of those “Confederate Southern American” fools. 😉

            • Kevin Levin Jun 25, 2011 @ 12:07

              It’s a classic. 🙂

      • Marianne Davis Jun 25, 2011 @ 16:18

        No, at least I hope it does not. That, like Irish-American, or Japanese-American, refers to national/family origin. A CSA affiliation does not equate, no matter how hard the SCV may argue the point, with Southern-American. I could hyphenate my identity in any number of ways should I chose to do so, but the prefix “Confederate” is both particular and peculiar. It refers to a time when a portion of the nation chose to leave it. My question is whether one can both glorify the CSA that created that rift, and claim a love of the nation that reunited under terms the CSA deplored and fought to avoid.

        • Billy Bearden Jun 27, 2011 @ 6:36


          Please investigate the following

          President Theodore Roosevelt’s speech on hyphenated americans from 1915 in New York

          • Marianne Davis Jun 27, 2011 @ 6:56

            Here Here! and Bravo! It’s about time. You reminded me of years ago when my kids were very small. (My husband’s family came to California from Japan around 1900.) We were at coffee hour after church when from across the room I heard a man ask my little one,” I know your Mama is a regular American, but what’s your Daddy?” Before I could get there with a blunt instrument, I heard her reply, “Oh, Daddy’s a regular American, too – – -only he’s REALLY smart!” Nothing I was holding could have hit him as hard as my five-year old.
            I used to think I was an Anglo-American until we moved to Britain. It took about six days for me disabuse me of that notion. American, baby, nothing more or less.

  • Karl Gottschalk Jun 25, 2011 @ 3:21

    Just demonstrates that diversity (which is what makes America different from most countries) is still alive and well. Different strokes for different folks!

  • K.P. Marshall Jun 24, 2011 @ 22:38

    Where is the outrage at there even being a Henry Ford? Mr. Ford was an anti-semite of the worst sort and an admirer of national socialism. Kevin, if you don’t mind me asking, why was the shot at the SCV necessary? Is the main idea not that people came out to see the E.P.? It just seems petty and beneath you as the SCV are well within their rights so lately won in the courtroom.

    • Kevin Levin Jun 25, 2011 @ 1:06

      I don’t think it’s petty at all. Of course, the SCV has the legal right to pursue license plates as a form of commemoration. Thanks for the comment.

  • JMRudy Jun 24, 2011 @ 11:56

    Another interesting juxtaposition is that 21,015 number against this note from Facebook from back in May:

    “The lottery for tickets to the opening ceremony of the Manassas Sesquicentennial closes tomorrow, May 4, at 10 p.m. Only 1700 entries have been received, with 4500 tickets available”


    This is going to be an interesting and informative 4 years for the Civil War public history profession, as we find out in what the public is REALLY interested.

    • Kevin Levin Jun 24, 2011 @ 12:09

      Even more interesting.

    • John Cummings Jun 25, 2011 @ 2:53

      If I may be permitted to inject, regarding the low numbers responding to the Manassas opening ceremony at the battlefield park:
      1. We are facing a financial crisis and high gas prices, with people cutting back on travel due to economic necessity.
      2. This particular event is being held on a weekday, Thursday the 21st of July. Some people can’t justify taking off from jobs presently.
      3. Many enthusiasts had already arranged time off to attend the previously planned and advertised battle reenactments that weekend, well before the NPS announcement of their ceremony. Again, anyone traveling a distance can’t easily add another day or two to their plans.

      It is my understanding that the reenactment, being held on private property down the road from the park, is also seeing lower numbers pre-registered than expected, and all due again to the economic and gas situation.

      I don’t think the low attendance of any of these events accurately reflects the public’s interest or disinterest in the Sesquicentennial. We do what we have to do, and for many it is survival right now.

    • Billy Bearden Jun 27, 2011 @ 5:42

      Kevin and JMRudy,

      For a museum to host an exhibit which we are (wrongly) taught is the greatest thing since the 10 Commandments, which was totally FREE and is within easy transport via public transportation for all – but mainly Detroit and outlying areas that has about 5,000,000 citizens, a huge chunk being unemployed and able to drop by – your song and dance about a paltry 21,015 visitors (what’s that? less than 0.00001% ?) is pure desperation.

      WOW !

      How much higher would the attendance have been if the Henry Ford charged to see it?

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