A Burning Question in Atlanta

It appears that the efforts of the Georgia Historical Society to commemorate an event in Civil War history that happened in Atlanta has met with opposition from the city’s chapter of the NAACP.

Only in this case it involves an effort to commemorate the burning (final burning, I may add) of Atlanta by William T. Sherman before he commenced his March to the Sea.

“It seems to be honoring something that reminds us of some tragic occurrences that happened to our people at the time. The whole war itself centered around the slave issue,” said R.L. White, president of the NAACP’s Atlanta branch. “We accept that it’s history but would like to see it done somewhere else than the heart of the civil rights historic district. It’s kind of tragic that the state is choosing that location.”

This is confusing on a number of levels.  W. Todd Groce, who is president of the society, argues that the marker’s placement is historically accurate (down by the railroad yard).  So that should mean that the SCV should support him, because that organization’s all about historical accuracy.  The misgivings of Mr. White seem a bit curious.  After all, Sherman’s occupation of Atlanta liberated black people, and I’d assume that’s not a painful memory.  That it was Sherman who did that was ironic, given his lack of concern for the welfare of blacks or the destruction of slavery, but there were other Union generals, including Oliver O. Howard, who felt differently.  That said, the “hurt feelings” defense has also been used when it comes to displays of the Confederate Battle Flag, and once you admit it’s a valid complaint in that instance, how can you contest its validity in another instance?

That said, I hope Dimitri Rotov smiles when he comes across this:

“It’s all about trying to capture heritage tourism dollars,” said Will Hanley, the marker coordinator for the Historical Society. “We feel there will be a lot of tourism dollars spent on the Civil War anniversary.”

Ah, so that’s what it’s all about.  Set up markers so people will visit them and spend money.

Just another day in the life of the Civil War Sesquicentennial.

One thought on “A Burning Question in Atlanta

  1. John Foskett April 9, 2011 / 10:36 am

    This perfectly illustrates the problems with orchestrating anniversaries. The process gets hijacked by folks with 21st century agendas (whether they take the form of Lost Cause revisionism, political correctness, or modern victimization). Mix in the crowd that sees this as a revenue enhancement opportunity for local businesses. Everything gets served – except history. I think that Dimitri spends far too much time in a guerilla campaign to defend the indefensible – AKA George B. McLellan. But he long ago nailed the basic problem with this stuff. In this case, the event happened where it happened. Mr. White apparently doesn’t understand the oxymoron. The state didn’t “choose the location” – Sherman did. You can’t “accept that it’s history” and stage the memorial in Washington.

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