Over the course of this year, we’ll be interviewing some of the historians scheduled to speak at the 2016 CWI conference about their upcoming talks and their thoughts about Reconstruction and its legacies.Today, we’re speaking with Anne Marshall, Associate Professor of History at Mississippi State University. Marshall’s most recent publications include Creating a Confederate Kentucky: The Lost Cause and Civil War Memory in a Border State (University of North Carolina Press, 2010), and “The Jack Burden of Southern History: Robert Penn Warren, C. Vann Woodward, and Historical Practice,” in Storytelling, History, and the Postmodern South, ed. by Jason Phillips (Louisiana State University Press, 2013).
CWI: What role did memory, memorial associations, and the prolific creation of Civil War monuments play during the Reconstruction era?
MARSHALL: The efforts of both former white Confederates and white Unionists to commemorate the memory of the dead and surviving soldiers played a significant role in helping the American public deal with the trauma of war. Monuments and veterans associations became about much more about honoring the past, however. They also served as an effective way to shape the present during Reconstruction. Union veterans associations like the Grand Army of the Republic served as an advocacy group within the Republican Party, while black Union veterans often drew upon their service in the U.S. Army as grounds for obtaining and retaining the rights of citizenship in the post-war era. Most notably, white southerners created an entire worldview surrounding the concept of the Lost Cause, which they wielded to turn back the tide of federal Reconstruction and maintain white supremacy. In many ways, the very different aims of memorial groups who channeled the memory of the Civil War toward different ends became a way of continuing to fight the war in culture and in policy well after the fighting on the battlefield was over. Continue reading “Southern Reconstruction and Constructed Memory: Anne Marshall Talks Veterans, Heritage Groups, and Reconcilation”
The world of social media has been buzzing over the topic of the Confederate flag, creating a scary divide of opinions over it. The whole debate/argument started over the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina. The shooter had the Confederate flag posted all over his social media sites, creating some disturbing images of hatred. Instead of focusing on the race war the shooter was trying to start, many focused on the Confederate Flag he had in his pictures online. Tempers flared and many sought the removal of the Confederate flag from in front of the Capital Building in Charleston during the funerals of the victims.
However, this was just the beginning. Soon many people wanted more, to remove the flag all across the country. Apple, Amazon, eBay, and Walmart joined the event by removing Confederate flag items from being sold. The announcement made many people feel that their “Southern Heritage” was being suppressed and people were “too soft and offended by too many things in today’s society.” Then the Gettysburg National Park Service announced the removal of sole Confederate flag merchandise from their book store. The same people now thought that the government was trying to oppress the Southern perspective of the Civil War and were going to remove Confederate flags from all museums. The people for the removal thought it was about time that the flag was removed because it stood for slavery and a national divide. They also brought in the argument that Germany banned the Nazi flag from flying, so why was the Confederate flag still flying to this day. But what does this flag mean and what is the appropriate way to respond to this debate? Continue reading “Vandalism and Symbolism”
An ongoing and rather controversial debate in the Civil War world is that over the rightful placement of the Confederate battle flag in American memory. Being such a provocative symbol both in terms of history and race relations, its ‘true’ meaning and ‘true’ symbolism are constantly in flux. With recent disputes on the removal of the Confederate flag from Robert E. Lee’s tomb at Washington and Lee University making their way into the mainstream news, the complicated meaning of the rebel symbol and where it belongs in American memory have earned their places at the forefront of the national consciousness.
Brad Paisley worked the issue even further into the public arena with the release of the song “Accidental Racist” on his 2013 album Wheelhouse. Set toward the end of the album, the country song with a little flavor of rap features LL Cool J as a guest artist. Immediately after its release, the song drew criticism both from white and black Americans about its aims and the intended meaning behind its unusual yet distinctive lyrics.
On March 28 a group of inspirational students from Selma, Alabama from the Random Acts of Theatre Company (RATCO) toured the Gettysburg Battlefield with CWI fellows and staff. Led by Dr. Peter Carmichael and Dr. Jill Titus, we endeavored to answer the difficult question of whether or not the Civil War was worth it. Many of us would answer this question with a resounding yes without realizing the extent to which the environment we were brought up in shaped this response. For the students of RATCO, who are growing up in a segregated community where the war of northern aggression is still taught in schools, “yes” is a much harder conclusion to reach.