Commonplace Book #89

Of course , nations rarely commemorate their disaster and tragedies unless compelled by forces that will not let the politics of memory rest.  One should not diminish the profoundly meaningful experiences of the [Gettysburg] veterans themselves as such a reunion; the nation, through the psyches of old soldiers, had achieved a great deal of healing.  But the 1913 [Gettysburg] “Peace Jubilee,” as the organizers called it, was a Jim Crow reunion, and white supremacy might be said to have been the silent, invisible master of ceremonies.  At a time when lynching had developed into a social ritual of its own horrifying kind, and when the American  apartheid had become fully entrenched, many black leaders and editors found the sectional love feast at Gettysburg more than they could bear. “A Reunion for whom?” asked the Washington Bee.  Only those who “fought for the preservation of the Union and the extinction of human slavery,” or also those who “fought to destroy the Union and perpetuate slavery, and who are now employing every artifice and argument known to deceit and sophistry to propagate a national sentiment in favor of their nefarious contention that emancipation, reconstruction and enfranchisement are a dismal failure?”  Black responses to such reunions as that at Gettysburg in 1913, and a host of similar events, demonstrated how fundamentally at odds black memories were with the national reunion.  In that disconnection lay an American tragedy not yet fully told by 1913, and one utterly out of place at Blue-Gray reunions.

David Blight, Race and Reunion, 9-10.

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