Ed Sebesta’s Dilemma

Edward H. Sebesta is well known to many readers of this blog.  He styles himself as a researcher who combats neo-Confederate positions (although it isn’t quite clear what he means by this term: I think he’d castigate an overcast day as being neo-Confederate).  He’s written the president; he’s declared he would not accept an award for his work from the Museum of the Confederacy, and openly deplored being nominated.  He believes that the Museum of the Confederacy is a front for neo-Confederate ideals (an elusive term), although the MOC has come under attack from other corners for not being Confederate enough.  He’s the co-author of The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader: The “Great Truth” about the “Lost Cause“, the book he did not want recognized by the MOC.

Recently we’ve observed an interesting coincidence.  While Mr. Sebesta has posted about his continuing crusade against the Museum of the Confederacy, the co-author of the book he did not want recognized by the MOC, James Loewen, actually appeared on a panel with an employee of the institution (John Coski), and admitted to Kevin Levin that he recruited Coski for this panel.  Fair enough: Coski’s work on the Confederate flag is a noteworthy contribution to the literature.  But Loewen’s willingness to recognize someone from the MOC puts Mr. Sebesta in something of a difficult dilemma.  Given his denunciations of the MOC, how can Sebesta work with a man who recognizes that MOC staff do worthwhile historical scholarship and are not, in fact, representatives of neo-Confederate beliefs?  Wouldn’t that make Sebesta something of a hypocrite?

James Loewen takes great care to dance around the issue of his co-author’s behavior.  That’s fair enough: scholars are not necessarily accountable for the actions of co-authors or co-editors.  Still, it’s evident that he ducked Kevin Levin’s inquiries this past week.  But Mr. Sebesta leads us to believe that he holds himself to a higher, purer standard.  One must thus ask how he justifies working with a man who does not share his views on the MOC if he is indeed as ideologically pure as he presents himself.  Might it not be the case that the MOC is not nearly so bad as Mr. Sebesta claims?  Or is Mr. Sebesta willing to compromise his principles and reveal that his ranting is no more than a stunt to draw attention to himself?  Or is he really a neo-Confederate mole?

Which is it, Mr. Sebesta?

I suspect Mr. Sebesta will duck this, too.  Interesting that neither Loewen or Sebesta is willing to comment on his co-author.  Must have been an interesting collaboration.


7 thoughts on “Ed Sebesta’s Dilemma

  1. Matt McKeon September 18, 2011 / 9:02 am

    Is this important? Even interesting?

    • Brooks D. Simpson September 18, 2011 / 9:44 am

      To some people it is important, and to some people it is interesting. Not everyone shares the same level of interest in various matters, and everyone has their own sense of what’s important.

      Given Mr. Sebesta’s efforts to draw attention to himself on various scholarly forums, and his desire to represent himself as an expert on such matters and a qualified researcher (and that university presses have seen that his work has merit), he’s out there as a public figure on this matter. You may dismiss him, but clearly others don’t, including Jim McPherson. The same goes for Mr. Loewen. That you might not share that opinion is, of course, up to you. But if I refused to comment on something because someone out there didn’t find it interesting, no one would blog, because there’s always someone who finds something not interesting, while someone else finds the same thing very interesting.

  2. John Foskett September 18, 2011 / 10:35 am

    It seems that whenever a battle needs to be fought, the side which is on the right will always include in its numbers a few who fail at target identification. That which is truly “neo Confed” needs to be challenged because it is intellectual offal and spin-doctored fantasy. Ed, however, seems to have come to the gunfight wearing a blindfold and carrying a blunderbuss equipped with a hair trigger.

  3. Andrew Duppstadt September 19, 2011 / 7:32 am

    You reference Mr. Loewen serving on a panel with Mr. Coski; if you are referring to the panel they did this past weekend at the AASLH annual meeting, I was present and it was a very good panel, indeed. During the time for comments, the MOC director, Mr. Waite Rawls even chimed in. Of course, the MOC was a co-sponsor of that panel if I’m not mistaken, along with the National Council on Public History. It would seem that two of the largest professional organizations in the public history field understand and appreciate the professionalism of the MOC.

    • Brooks D. Simpson September 19, 2011 / 11:10 am

      My take on this is that most scholars hold the MOC in high regard. Certainly I didn’t think it was a haven of pro-Confederate rhetoric when I visited, and I hope to spend more time there in the future.

  4. Ray O'Hara (@RAYOHARA) September 19, 2011 / 12:28 pm

    I thought it was a great museum in a city with many excellent museums., but dammit, the Marine Raider Museum always seems to be closed.

    I didn’t see anything in it to outrage my unrepentant Yankeeness{the good Yankees not TEE type one finds in the Bronx} .
    Just being the Museum of the Confederacy doesn’t lead to it being a place selling the Lost Cause, Nor do I recall any CW museums I’ve visited in Va where I saw anything that made me think, “hey, that’s a load of bullpucky” the worst any can be accused of is ignoring the politics of the War and personally when I’m looking at exhibits I don’t care to be preached to even when I’m in the choir.

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