One of the projects that I have been contemplating is a Confederate Monuments reader based on my Confederate Monuments Syllabus page, which I have used over the past year to track a wide range of sources related to the ongoing debate. It was inspired by the Charleston Syllabus, another crowd sourcing project that ultimately resulted in a reader published by the University of Georgia Press.
This debate shows no signs of slowing down. My recent attendance at a history educators conference around the theme of “Myth, Memory, and Monuments,” demonstrated that teachers are in desperate need of reliable primary and secondary sources on this subject.
The only book on the horizon that remotely addresses this is a volume in the University of Georgia’s new “History in the Headlines” series, which is edited by Catherine Clinton and Jim Downs. The first volume in the series is Confederate Statues and Memorialization, edited and moderated by Catherine Clinton. The book will feature discussion with historians Karen Cox, Gary Gallagher, Nell Irvin Painter, and Fitz Brundage. It will certainly be a welcome volume, but it follows a different path compared to what I envision.
I envision a reader that tracks the evolution of Confederate monuments over three periods, including the immediate postwar period, the Jim Crow-era through the Civil Rights Movement, and finally the events that have led us to this most recent debate. One of the reasons why I favor a historical approach is that all too often the historical context provided concentrates solely on the Jim Crow-era, which misses the dedication of monuments both before and after this crucial period.
Each chapter will include the most insightful op-eds written over the past few years and excerpts from a select number of accessible books along with a wide range of primary sources, including dedication speeches, monument inscriptions, and photographs.
I believe that such a book will appeal to high school and college level teachers as well as general readers looking for both a reliable narrative explaining the history and memory of these monuments as well as access to the primary sources themselves. More importantly, I can see such a book as a valuable tool for the leaders in communities that are facing tough questions about their Confederate monuments.
Over the next few days I am going to flesh this out, but what do you think? I would love to hear your suggestions about what such a book should include, especially if you are a history teacher on the high school or college level.