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Still Fighting the War – Smiling Slaves, Confederate Monuments, Black History Month, and Harper Lee

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.

Mississippi Keeps Their Flag; Governor Proclaims April ‘Confederate Heritage Month’

While Mississippi’s legislature found that they didn’t have enough time to do anything about the Confederate Battle Flag in their own state flag, their governor, Phil Bryant, managed to find the time to declare April “Confederate Heritage Month”. His proclamation has no mention of slavery, of course. Heritage isn’t about history, it’s more akin to religion – it can be pretty much whatever you imagine it to be. He wrote: “It is important for all Americans to reflect upon our nation’s past, to insight from our mistakes and successes, and to come to a full understanding that the lessons learned yesterday and today will carry us through tomorrow if we carefully and earnestly strive to understand and appreciate our heritage and our opportunities which lie before us.” Perhaps in the future, Mississippi will actually learn from the mistakes they’re still committing. Mississippi’s Proclamation wasn’t announced by the government itself, but by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a neo-Confederate organization – basically the Church of the Heritage religion. More here. And here. Full proclamation here.

Culpepper Students Treated to Civil War Talks for Black History Month

Students at Floyd T. Binns Middle School in Culpepper, Virginia learned about the lives of black Americans during the Civil War era. Two reenactors, one dressed as a soldier from the 54th Massachusetts, and the other portraying Harriet Tubman, explained the harsh realities for blacks during the 1800s. This is definitely worth the read. More here.

Possible New Home for Columbia, SC’s Confederate Flag

The Confederate Battle Flag which flew outside of South Carolina’s state capitol has been down for six months. It was originally sent to the relics room inside the capitol, but that museum has now been shuttered and lawmakers are searching for a new home for the controversial flag. It’s looking like a museum in Charleston might be on their minds. Read more about it here and here.

Another Mock Slave Auction for Kids

Chicago’s Kenwood Academy on the south side held a mock slave auction this past Friday. “It was likely a misguided attempt by the students to inject some humor into their part of the program,” said the district Superintendent. Humor apparently does not have to be funny where he comes from. I’m not sure why people think this is okay. More here.

Southern Plantations Teaching More About Slavery

In the past, Southern plantations usually shied away from any mention of their roles in slavery. Now, places such as Montpelier, Ash Lawn-Highland, and Monticello and delving deeper into their sordid history, giving visitors a chance to learn more about the realities of life in the antebellum South. Read more here.

U. of Alabama Called to Rename Building after Harper Lee

The University of Alabama is being asked by students to rename a building named after John Tyler Morgan. Though Morgan was a senator, he was also a Confederate General and Grand Dragon in the Ku Klux Klan. The leading suggestion at this point seems to be Harper Lee, the recently-passed author of To Kill a Mockingbird, who attended the University in the 1940s. Read more here.

Elenor Roosevelt’s Battle to End Lynching

The Poughkeepsie Journal recently published a piece about Elenor Roosevelt’s efforts to help pass federal anti-lynching law. In the end, it was a failure, as no such laws were ever passed. In 2005, the United States Senate apologized. The Roosevelt article can be read here. 2005 article about the hollow apology is here.

Black History Month is Not Supposed to be Comfortable

A Black History Month exhibit featuring KKK items is making more than a few kids at a Connecticut private school uncomfortable. Scot X. Esdaile, the president of Connecticut’s NAACP says that’s a very good thing. “It is exactly what black people had to deal with in America,” he said. “I think it’s very important that the history is properly documented and displayed and that young people understand what black people had to go through.” Read the full article here.

The Comedy of Ben Butler

If a stage play about Benjamin Butler seems like one of the most torturous things one might be subjected to in the modern era, you might want to think again. Written by Richard Strand, Butler is a comedy taking place in the spring of 1861, Fortress Monroe, just as the slaves forced to work as Confederate laborers were escaping into the Federal lines. Though there is unfortunately no way for most of us to see the play (which is a huge shame, as it looks amazing), you can read more about it here.

‘Slavery With a Smile’ Childrens Books Called into Question

Two children’s books have recently made headlines for featuring slaves seeming to be fairly happy with their lives. Critics are explaining that simply having books with people of color in them isn’t enough. They claim that the authors (mostly the illustrators and publishers) are white-washing history.
Full article here. Background on one of the books here.

20% of Trump Supporters are Pro-Slavery? Thankfully Not

By now, I’m sure most of you have seen the NYT article claiming that “Nearly 20 percent of Mr. Trump’s voters disagreed with Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.” But Snopes has some problems with the findings. It’s complicated and full of math, but if you’ve got the time, check it out here. It’s pretty worth it, even if you glaze over the mathy parts.

The KKK Is Still a Thing

Thanks to the above presidential candidate, much of the nation is once again realizing that the Ku Klux Klan is not a thing of the past. With the Klan rally gone wrong/predictable this past weekend, perhaps a bit of a wake up call is long overdue. More here.

Removing Confederate Monuments in New Orleans Could be a Dangerous Job

Unveiling of Confederate President Jefferson Davis Monument in New Orleans, 1911.
Unveiling of Jefferson Davis Monument in New Orleans, 1911.
Several contracting companies in New Orleans are receiving intimidating calls concerning their potential bids on removing Confederate monuments in the city. The monuments in question honor Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and P.G.T. Beauregard. Confederate enthusiasts were encouraging their supporters to make the removal job “as uncomfortable as possible” for the contractors. In response, several companies reported a few ugly interactions. For a better understanding, read this. And then this. And for the specific emails (and the wonderful responses from the contractors) read this.

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.

Has always had a love for history and the Civil War. During the 150th anniversary of the war, writing the Civil War Daily Gazette blog, which published daily for nearly five years. Wishing to continue the exploration, following the Charleston murders in 2015, and the activism around removing the Confederate Battle Flag, decided to dig a little deeper into the causes and repercussions of the War.