News From Stone Mountain

It now looks as if the plan to erect a bell tower atop Stone Mountain to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., has been shelved. Given the opposition offered by several groups who honor King to the idea, that does not come as a surprise.

What remains of the original proposal, however, is also sure to spark some controversy. Plans remain to tell the story of African Americans who saw military service during the American Civil War. And, as you might expect, to some people that means the story of black Confederates.

Here we go again. I can’t wait for those historians who proclaim that any discussion of this issue is regrettable because responsible scholars dismiss it out of hand discover that not everyone agrees (and that their strategy of ignoring the controversy has backfired yet again). After all, advocates of the black Confederate tale are sure to cite Harvard professor John Stauffer in support of their position … and perhaps Skip Gates and Jim Downs will jump on this bandwagon as well once more.

Let’s see whether scholars abdicate their responsibility to educate the public responsibly once more because they simply dismiss what some people say out of hand … until they see the result at Stone Mountain. Then we’ll see who’s “freaking out.” And we’ll also see who falls silent.

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 CompiĆ©gne, 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.

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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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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.