Commemorating the Baltimore Riot of April 19, 1861

I came across this rather interesting account by Greg Clemmer of how people chose to commemorate the attack upon soldiers of the 6th Massachusetts Infantry as they changed trains in Baltimore on April 19, 1861.  It strikes a pleasant note of mutual respect and reconciliation; moreover, I can understand why Clemmer may have taken exception to aspects of an opinion piece by Leonard Pitts, although I note he did not contest Pitts’s main argument.  Then I saw that Clemmer had already offered basically the same criticism of Pitts’s piece days before the event.

Taken together, it’s all rather odd.  Clemmer complains that Pitts is stereotyping white southerners and taking extreme examples as representative.  Fine.  I’ve made that point rather recently about how wrong it is to empower extremists who claim to speak for the South as if they really do speak for it.  However, Clemmer then makes what I see as his own unfortunate comment about stereotyping: “Yet what Mr. Pitts really did was reinforce the unfortunate stereotype of African-Americans being more interested in their originations than their destinations.”  Pitts’s commentary does not merit that characterization, either, and perhaps Clemmer would have been better off to have omitted that observation all together.  Meanwhile, he neatly sidesteps Pitts’s major argument, preferring to notice the mutual respect shown by the reenactors … who, let’s remind ourselves, are reenactors, not participants, in an interesting takeoff of the tale about Joshua Chamberlain, John B. Gordon, and Surrender Triangle at Appomattox on April 12, 1865.

Once more, race squares off against reunion.

When Simplification Becomes Distortion

Over at Cosmic America Keith Harris has a very interesting and telling reaction to his reading of Time‘s effort to address the evolution of Civil War memory.

I think he’s basically right.  We’ve spent too much time discussing the evolution of white southern memory of the war and very little on how African Americans and white northerners approached the issue of remembering the Civil War during the first fifty years after the conflict ended.  From my own reading I’ve concluded that for many white northerners reconciliation was far more conditional than the current presentation of historical understanding would have us believe.

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