Friday the 13th at the VMFA

Tonight the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts will host InLight, an exhibit of light and sound, at the War Memorial Chapel located on the grounds of the museum.

The museum has done what it could to downplay or contest the description of the event as a “trippy funhouse” in Richmond’s StyleWeekly, claiming that the event is a serious piece of art that will inspire thought and reflection.

As one might expect, the Virginia Flaggers, blind to their own previous efforts to turn the War Memorial Chapel into a “trippy funhouse,” have announced that they will protest the event.

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November 11, 1918

Last June, I traveled to Europe, where for nearly three weeks I visited sites in Luxembourg, Belgium, and France. Among the places I visited was the place where the armistice of 1918 was signed at Compiégne, France. It’s a little bit off the beaten path, but a historical site is a historical site, and so we made our way over one morning.


A rather large monument marking the triumph of France over Germany and the restoration of Alsace and Lorraine to France marks the entrance to the park.

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A Trippy Time at the VMFA? Or … Will Susan Frise Hathaway Get Skeered Again?

Next weekend the VMFA will “repurpose” the War Memorial Chapel. Two artists, John Dombroski and Ander Mikalson, are “planning to turn the memorial into a trippy funhouse full of disorienting light, sound and shadow.” According to Dombroski, “By illuminating and amplifying the building and visitors’ presence within it, we will create a heightened sensory experience that invites investigation and introspection.” The result, according to one report, will “probe the chapel’s socio-political significance.”


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Making a List, and Checking it Twice

UPDATE: See below …

Much has been made of a pledge by the group “Anonymous” to release a list of people supposedly linked to the Ku Klux Klan. Indeed, early in the week, two lists were circulated, one nationally (listing several politicians) and one to selected audiences (which carried the names of many prominent and some less-than-prominent Confederate heritage advocates, including several Virginia Flaggers and their supporters). The former list was quickly disavowed by Anonymous itself, which promised to issue its list on November 5. The latter list became the subject of a denial by Susan Frise Hathaway on the blog of the Virginia Flaggers, as well as scattered commentary by a certain sidekick.

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The Continuing What-Ifs of Reconstruction

Note: Not too long ago I finished a manuscript that will appear in next March’s Journal of the Civil War Era. It addresses particular counterfactual queries concerning the course of Reconstruction and the policy pursued by Republicans. I have long been interested in Reconstruction policy, especially at the national level, as my 1998 book, The Reconstruction Presidents, suggests, although those readers who peruse the pages of The Political Education of Henry Adams (1996) will find it also addresses Reconstruction from the perspective of one of its critics. Thus what follows is in response to recent discussions, but it also reflects a far longer interest that has its most recent expression in the above-mentioned manuscript.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Reconstruction history to me is the degree to which some historians speculate about the what-ifs of Reconstruction in their eagerness to believe that what happened was not largely preordained if not inevitable. Then again, historians also don’t like to consider that something’s inevitable: whether a certain outcome to a historical process was inevitable sits along the same spectrum as speculating about what-ifs, for it’s useless to ponder “what if …” if something was inevitable. Moreover, the what-ifs we choose to explore reveal a lot about what we would “like” to have happened, and all too often one’s tale grounded in considerations of the counterfactual conforms closely to one’s personal fantasy about what ought to have happened.

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A Heritage of Hate and Terrorism …

I have suggested that often Confederate heritage advocates reveal that they are inspired by honoring their own hatreds and not the service of the Confederate soldier … and that sometimes it seems that the real heritage of service they honor is that of the white supremacist terrorists of Reconstruction, especially when they rhapsodize about Nathan Bedford Forrest and Wade Hampton, two of Susan Frise Hathaway’s favorites (red dress Hathaway loves Hampton’s Red Shirts).

Even Connie Chastain admitted on Twitter recently that some of Confederate heritage is bigotry.

CC CSA heritage Twitter

When you say, “Not all of it is bigotry,” you’re admitting that some of it is … maybe even most of it. My thanks to Connie Chastain for that revealing admission.

And Connie Chastain is right. Look here for evidence from a picture snapped at the University of North Carolina, where recent protests and counterprotests continue about “Silent Sam,” a Confederate statue on campus:

Courtesy @Humane_Force on Twitter
Courtesy @Humane_Force on Twitter

Yup … a noose attached to a pole flying the Confederate Battle Flag. Or so it appears.

You can’t get much more direct than that.

Note: Other images of the protest don’t show the same flag … so this is destined to become a controversial image as people question its veracity.

Mike Huckabee’s Quotable Stumbles

It looks as if Mike Huckabee has decided that it is better to make up quotes for historical figures than to do the work necessary to quote them correctly. At least that’s what several media outlets have claimed recently.

So much for civic literacy, often a way of complaining about the quality of public education in the United States, especially when it comes to subjects such as history.

I do note that the book in question came out in 1998. It interests me that only now did someone decide to report this.

As before, I expect someone to say this is all part of my nasty partisan agenda to prove candidates of one party or another to be morons. All I can say is … I couldn’t do it without them. I didn’t stick words in their mouths … although they stuck words in the mouths of other people.

Bigotry, Present Politics, and Confederate Heritage Advocates

We often struggle to understand exactly what advocates of Confederate heritage really believe. After all, we know that some people are simply honoring their ancestors without in any way sanctioning the Confederacy as a movement to protect and promote slavery. That those people inevitably risk association with certain other people is unfortunate, although at times their failure to distance themselves from such people doesn’t help.

But we are also aware that many advocates of Confederate heritage engage in that activity in part because their understanding of the Confederacy converges with their present political beliefs. Indeed, in some cases these people don’t understand much about history, and reshape Confederate heritage to support their own political beliefs.

Take these two examples:


These memes illustrate perfectly the convergence of a professed desire to honor Confederate heritage with a particular political message.

So much for “heritage, not hate.” As we see here, these memes show that it continues to be a heritage of hate.

Nor is that all. This morning, when I checked Twitter, I saw this exchange:


Give Kevin Levin credit for a clever response to this outburst of bigotry from a Confederate heritage advocate.  I wasn’t so nice, and so the following exchange unfolded (to read it in chronological order, read from the bottom up):


The top comment by “Battlefield Tramper” scored a hat trick of errors, but then accuracy has never been the strong point of these Confederate heritage advocates. Hatred is their stock in trade.

And who does “Battlefield Tramper” follow?
BigotFollowerseWhat a surprise. The Sons of Confederate Veterans, the Virginia Flaggers, and other Confederate heritage mainstays. Defend the heritage indeed … especially this sort of heritage.

And they wonder why people want to take down the Confederate battle flag. Perhaps it’s in part because these are the sorts of people who embrace that flag as representing their heritage and what they believe … which, as we see here, is bigotry and hatred for other people.

Until defenders of Confederate heritage spend as much energy disassociating themselves from such bigots as they do whining about political correctness and disparaging anyone with whom they don’t agree, they have an uphill climb when it comes to changing hearts and minds. Indeed, it stands to reason whether they have hearts and minds, because tolerating such behavior suggests that they don’t use them very often.