This Cruel War is a blog dedicated to studying the Civil War, it’s causes and repercussions. While these “repercussions” are generally noted as events taking place during Reconstruction or the Jim Crow era, in actuality, the repercussions of the Civil War are still being felt today. From the debate over the use of the Confederate Battle Flag to how to interpret slavery and lynchings, as a nation we are still working through the war that ended over 150 years ago.
Over the past week or so, these are the stories which I have been following.
Black Girl Assaulted with Confederate Flag
In Kentucky, an eighteen year old woman was arrested on February 13 over an incident during which she attacked a black girl. While the victim was in her car, Hayleigh Blevins used “racial slurs while repeatedly hitting the victim’s car with a pole attached to a Confederate flag.” Both Blevins and the victim attend high school together. The victim’s mother described it as a racially-charged hate crime, but Blevin’s father, and – more importantly – the school district, both claim it was a fight over a boy. A second student, the owner of the flag, which had been attached to his pick up truck (because of course it was), has also been charged in the incident. Regardless of what prompted the fight, it should be noted that a white person physically attacked a black person with a Confederate flag while calling the victim a “nigger.” Read more about it here and here.
YMCA Cancels Long-Running Slavery Reenactment
For the past twenty-years, a YMCA camp in Jackson, Michigan had been attempting to teach campers about the Underground Railroad by actually reenacting what it was “like” to be a slave. Kids as young as ten were lined up and “auctioned off” to camp councilors posing as enslavers. Additionally, escape attempts were staged and the campers tracked by councilors on horseback. The camp claims that “the purpose of this activity is to teach students about this sad time in our country’s history.” Due to recent complaints, the YMCA discontinued its weirdly little program. More here.
KKK in Georgia Wants to Sue State
After their Adopt-A-Highway application was denied in 2012, the Klan moved to sue the state. In turn, the state wishes to follow Texas’ lead in barring certain groups from state-run programs. Both sides are making their arguments using the First Amendment, which can apparently mean whatever you want it to mean. The case was heard by the Georgia Supreme Court on the 22nd, and a decision will likely be made in a few weeks. More here.
Dramatic Increase in Hate-Groups Explained
The Southern Poverty Law Center recently updated their public database which tracks various hate groups across the country. In 2014, the various cells numbered 784, and increased to 892. From 2008 to 2013, the number was near or over 1,000. It began to decrease before this latest spike, likely encouraged by certain politicians of the day (if the Klan themselves are to be believed). “Klan chapters grew from 72 in 2014 to 190 last year, invigorated by the 364 pro-Confederate battle flag rallies that took place after South Carolina took down the battle flag from its Capitol grounds following the June massacre of nine black churchgoers by a white supremacist flag enthusiast in Charleston, S.C.” More here.
Tennessee Moves Closer to Effectively Blocking the Removal of Monuments
Lawmakers in Tennessee are backing a bill that would require two-thirds majority vote from the Tennessee Historical Commission before the removal of any Confederate monument or the renaming of any street. If passed, the law would require a public hearing and a “cooling off” period of 180 days. On the 18th, it passed the House by a wide margin and will soon be handed off to the Senate. More here.
A candidate for the Minnesota House makes a bonkers argument against marriage equality by giving a pro-slavery argument that actually seems to somehow support marriage equality. Serious never saw that coming. It makes no sense, but here it is anyway: “In fact, if you really want to be quite frank about it, how does somebody else owning a slave affect me? It doesn’t. If I don’t think it is right, I won’t own one, and people always say, ‘Well, if you don’t want to marry somebody of the same sex, you don’t have to, but why tell somebody else they can’t?’ Uh, you know if you don’t want to own a slave, don’t. But don’t tell other people they can’t.” More here, if you dare.
SCV to Hold CS Flag Day on Gettysburg Park Land
Gary Casteel, the fellow who made Gettysburg’s weirdly out-of-proportion Longstreet monument, wants the National Park to play host to the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ Confederate Flag Day. “It’s a small gathering of interested individuals to honor their ancestors and the flag in general and its history and such,” Casteel said. On Tuesday (Feb. 23), the Park Service granted the SCV the use of the Eternal Light Peace Memorial on the First Day’s Battlefield. More here.
Mississippi’s Ongoing State Flag Drama
The battle over Mississippi’s state flag – the only remaining state flag with bearing an obvious Confederate symbol – appears to be about to heat up once again. Debates are still ongoing on the floor of the legislature, but so far the ideas seem fairly silly. One suggestion is some type of punishment for public institutions that refuse to display that flag. Another lawmaker wants the state to adopt two “separate but equal” flags. Mississippi has apparently lost all sense of irony. On Monday (Feb. 22), House Speaker Philip Gunn, who had called for the flag to be changed, called for the issue to be settled by popular vote, seeming to doubt that the legislature will soon make up their minds. On Tuesday (Feb. 23), the House declined to decide or debate the issue, meaning that Mississippi’s flag will remain unchanged for now. More here and here. Update here.
Washington State to Remove Jefferson Davis Highway Designation?
The Jefferson Davis Highway never really existed in any official form. Originally, in the 1910s, it was planned as a southern route from Washington, DC to San Diego. Though most of the states along the proposed route adopted the moniker, it was never officially adopted by the Federal government. Nevertheless, an extension was proposed from San Diego to the Canadian border. This proposal took hold in Washington state in 1939 when US Route 99 was named “Jefferson Davis Highway.” In 2002, the Washington House attempted to drop the name, but it was blocked by the Senate.
Recently, another bill was proposed to rename the highway after William P. Stewart, a black American who fought in the Civil War and later moved to the city of Snohomish. On the 15th, it passed the House and was read before the Senate on Monday (Feb. 22). It should come up for a vote in a week or so-ish. More here.
The Fight to Remember Lynching Sites
The movement to place historical markers at the sites of thousands of lynchings that took place across the country is just getting started. It’s a slow process, but an important one. Here is a good introductory overview. Though there are many grassroots attempts to do this, three have received press coverage so far this month. Texas, Tennessee, and Missouri.
That’s all the news I’ve got for you this week, if you know of something that I missed, feel free to let me know.