A Historian of Civil War Memory Reviews Katie Couric’s “Re-Righting History”

Lee Monument

Historian Caroline E. Janney wonders if we can “right the past.”  “Re-Righting History” was the theme of an episode in Katic Couric’s documentary mini-series America Inside Out.  You can watch it here.

Here is a taste of Janney’s post at AHA Today:

This film offers a powerful reminder that memory is always about the present—about using the past to address social, cultural, and or political ideals. When Union veterans launched textbook campaigns in the late 19th century to ensure that the “proper,” i.e. the “Union,” version of the war was taught in classrooms, or when southern states began flying the Confederate battle flag during Massive Resistance, it was about the present, not the past. Such was and is the case in dedicating monuments, naming schools or state highways, flying the Confederate flag, or removing Confederate symbols and names. This documentary provides a stark example: Unite the Right organizer Jason Kessler candidly (and chillingly) explains that the alt-right rallied in Charlottesville to protect Lee’s statue in an effort to push back against the “policies of liberals [who] are ethnically cleansing white people from the face of the earth.” Just as the context of the early 20th century shaped efforts to build monuments, the current social and political climate informs calls to both remove and preserve them.

We need to press our students (and perhaps ourselves) to ask what is at the heart of protecting certain symbols or names, constructing new memorials to forgotten aspects of our past, or removing from the public landscape those we have come to evaluate differently in the 21st century. Who should get to make those decisions? What power dynamics are at play? Whom or what do they serve? And can we, as the documentary’s title suggests, ever “re-right” the past?

Read the entire post here.

Teaching American History after Charlottesville

Charlottesville

Process, the blog of the Organization of American Historians, is running a round table on teaching in the wake of Charlottesville.  Participants include Jarred Amato, Beverly Bunch-Lyons, Michael Dickinson, Emily Farris, Kevin Gannon (don’t miss him on Episode 26 of the TWOILH Podcast), Nyasha Junior, and Heather Cox Richardson.

Here is a taste:

Did the events in Charlottesville change the topics and questions you were planning to address this semester or quarter? If so, how?

Beverly Bunch-Lyons: No. The events in Charlottesville did not change the topics and questions I planned to address this semester. I am teaching the first half of African American History this semester, which covers 1450-1865, so while these issues are certainly important, timely, and relevant, I believe they are better suited to the second half of the course. I have an obligation to my students to cover historical topics that fall within the time period we are covering. I will discuss Charlottesville this semester, but only if students initiate the conversation. I realize that events like Charlottesville can be important teaching moments, but as educators I believe it is important to make sure that we provide deep and thorough historical context for students if we choose to broach these recent issues in classes where the topic may be outside of the historical scope we are covering.

Michael Dickinson: The recent events in Charlottesville did not directly change the topics I planned to address. The events did, however, demand that I alter the timeline of my syllabus. I am currently teaching an undergraduate seminar in early African American history. While concepts of race and racism are critical to the entire course, discussions of the Civil War necessarily fall toward the end of the semester. That said, recent events posed an opportunity more than a challenge. Events such as those in Charlottesville remind historians that our work is about more than the past; our work is vital to the present. Tragic moments of national mourning and conflict, while certainly unfortunate, are opportunities to help students better understand—and develop the skills of critical analysis to combat—ignorance and hate. These are objectives neatly built into syllabi but the events in Charlottesville and elsewhere pushed me to consider concepts of historical memory, race, and slavery in ways temporally out of place in the syllabus but pragmatically necessary for the contemporary moment.

Emily Farris: The events in Charlottesville occurred right after I put the finishing touches on my syllabus this fall for Urban Politics. While Charlottesville and the monument movement aren’t officially on my syllabus, I do plan on talking about these issues (and others) with my students as examples for the concepts we are going to study. For example, one section of the class looks at power and representation in the city. During those days, we will analyze what power looks like in cities and assess which groups have power and are represented in city decisions. I plan on bringing two recent events in our city, Fort Worth, into the discussion: the racially divided decision by the Fort Worth city council to not join the #SB4 immigration lawsuit and the movement I helped lead to rename Jefferson Davis city park. I find current events like these and Charlottesville help ground students in larger ideas, particularly more theoretical ones.

Kevin Gannon: As director of my university’s teaching center, I’ve certainly observed a “Charlottesville effect.” Issues of diversity, inclusion, and justice have been at the forefront of many of our conversations since last fall. There seems to be more urgency for some of us, as well as many students, in the wake of Charlottesville. An urban campus, our university is diverse compared to our state as a whole, but that’s not saying much. The student body is 90% white, and getting at issues of structural racism and historical memory, as well as privilege and power, can be fraught. Much of my work with faculty centers on handling difficult discussions, teaching inclusively, and classroom climate, and my center’s programming on these topics is well attended (faculty have requested even more, which I am glad to facilitate). It’s one thing for an institution to say it values diversity and inclusion and stands against racism. It’s another to actually commit the time and resources to doing the work behind those proclamations. Charlottesville isn’t that long ago, but my initial impression this year is that more faculty (adjunct and full-time) are thinking intentionally about these issues than is usually the case. Our students certainly are.

Read the entire round table here.

 

Court Evangelical Robert Jeffress Has a Message for NFL Players

Here is court evangelical Robert Jeffress on NFL players taking a knee:

Let’s get the facts straight.  These NFL players were protesting more than social injustice on Sunday.  They were also protesting the way that President Donald Trump responded to their protests of social injustice.  Their protests on this particular Sunday were more geared toward the latter than the former.  Jeffress seems to have conveniently forgot what Trump said about NFL players who have refused to stand for the playing of the National Anthem:

I would also add that it is impossible to interpret Trump’s remarks here apart from his remarks after Charlottesville:

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Episode 25: Thinking Historically About Charlottesville

podcast-icon1In our opening episode of Season 4, host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling catch up on some of the important historical work that still needs to be done in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville. John shares his thoughts on “Make American Great Again” as a historical statement. They are joined by historian Kelly J. Baker (@kelly_j_baker) who discusses the connections between her work Gospel According to the Klan: The KKK’s Appeal to Protestant America, 1915-1930 and the emergence of an increasingly vocal white supremacy movement in America today. 

Season 4 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast is Almost Here!

BakerWe were all in the studio today recording Episode 25 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.  This is our first episode of Season 4.

In this episode we discuss race and Charlottesville with Kelly J. Baker, author of the highly acclaimed Gospel According to the Klan: The KKK’s Appeal to Protestant America, 1915-1930.

The episode drops here on Sunday.  As always, it will be available at your favorite podcatcher.

While you wait, please “like” our new Facebook page and follow our new Twitter feed: @twoilhpodcast

And if you really like our work (and we hope you do), join our growing number of supporters by heading over to our Patreon site and making a pledge.

An Outline of the August-September 2017 Chapter in a Future Trump Biography

Trump Arpaio

Trump and Joe Arpaio

Future historians will not miss this.  We like to connect the dots and see trends.  The Trump presidency is only seven months old and there is already enough material to write an entire book on Trump and the politics of race.  But just think about the last several weeks:

I.  Charlottesville (August 12, 2017):  Trump draws a moral equivalence between white supremacists and the people protesting against white supremacists. White supremacists were thrilled.

II. Arizona (August 25, 2017): Trump pardons Sheriff Joe Arpaio from a jail sentence he was given for disregarding a court order in a racial-profiling case.  Trump’s base was thrilled.

III. Washington (September 5, 2017):  Trump ends the DACA program, leaving over 800,000 young people in limbo for the next six months about whether or not they will be deported.   Trump’s base is very happy.

What do these three things have in common?

*The Weekly Standard* on Court Evangelicals and Other Evangelical Supporters of Trump

President Donald Trump attends the Liberty University Commencement Ceremony

Grant Wishard, writing at the conservative Weekly Standard, does a nice job of summarizing the evangelical support of Donald Trump in the wake of Charlottesville.

Here is a taste:

Back when Trump’s travel ban was in the news, evangelicals made headlines when the PRRI conducted a study of religious groups between May 2016 and February 2017, measuring support for Trump’s executive order limiting travel from several Muslim-majority countries. During that time, support for the ban declined across every religious category, except among white evangelicals: 55 percent supported the ban in May, 61 percent supported the ban in February. Pew research published a similar study in February and found that 76 percent of white evangelical protestants favored the ban, more so than any other Christian group.

Lest these numbers be blamed on the group’s fringe, Pew has also reported that Trump’s support was strongest among evangelicals who attend church most frequently. Among those who attend church at least monthly, 67 percent “strongly approve of Trump” as opposed to 54 percent of those who “attend less.”

Many evangelicals voted for Trump in opposition to Hillary Clinton. They voted strategically, and the bargain has paid off in some key ways. The polls show that evangelicals (three-quarters of whom are white) are the most politically conservative churchgoers in the country, and remain the president’s staunchest supporters. It is equally true that the vast majority of evangelicals hate racism, but inevitably share some of the concerns (identity politics, illegal immigration, radical Islamic terrorism) that fuel white supremacy. None of this should be a surprise. Evangelicals know they made a deal with the devil, but will lose all sympathy if they treat Trump like a friend. Unless post-Charlottesville poll numbers register some loss of support for Trump, the connection between racism and religion will become all the more persuasive.

Read the entire piece here.

Historian: When it Comes to Monuments, “Nuance” and “Complexity” Connects Us All

San Antonio Confederate Monument

What should happen to the Confederate monument in San Antonio’s Travis Park?

Carey Latimore is a scholar of African-American history who chairs the Department of History at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas.  Over at the website of the San Antonio Express-News, Latimore explains why it may not be a good idea to pull down every Confederate monument that crosses our paths.

Here is a taste:

I can understand the reasons to remove these monuments. However, if the past decade has demonstrated anything to us, it is that we should not be too quick to view small victories as symbolic of racial progress or transcending race, especially if these victories do not force us to address race both intraracially and interracially.

Moving forward will require us to directly confront the meaning of racial progress.

For many years, I tried to separate my identities linked to both masters and slaves, but now I realize that this was an impossibility. Such a sentiment is shared by many in this great nation. Whatever the manner in which diverse communities met, erasing any of them will not move us forward. Indeed, the lives of the masters and slaves are so connected that removing either of them from our collective memories erases the other.

Nonetheless, Confederate monuments should not be allowed to remain without clarifying the connections the organizations and people represented in these monuments had to slavery and racism. Such clarification needs to be more than a footnote, and it needs to be placed where the monuments stand.

The current conversation about Confederate memorials is a sign of our collective failure not only to accurately tell the stories that we memorialize but also a failure to celebrate diverse stories. If we are truly a multicultural nation, we should aim to do a better job pulling together the nuance and complexity that connects us all.

Perhaps then we can move forward together.

Read the entire piece here.

Thanks to Paul Thompson for bringing this piece to my attention.

 

Baltimore Is Trying to Figure Out What to Do With the Monuments They are Taking Down

Taney

Baltimore removed a statue of Supreme Court justice Roger Taney

Here is a taste of Merrit Kennedy’s report at National Public Radio:

On Aug. 16, under the cover of darkness, Baltimore removed four statues of figures with Confederate ties in a five-hour operation ordered by Mayor Catherine Pugh.

The Lee-Jackson statue and three others are now in a city lot, covered and protected. The location is being kept secret. And Baltimore is trying to figure out what to do with them. Pugh says she has appointed a working group of city officials to weigh the options for where the statues should go.

Other cities across the U.S. that have taken down controversial monuments are grappling with the same questions.

“They’re coming down so fast, I don’t know if we have enough museums to house them or enough cemeteries to stick them in,” Pugh says of those works.

Baltimore’s mayor says she took action quickly and quietly because she was worried about violence in the aftermath of Charlottesville, Va., where plans to remove a statue of Lee became a rallying point for white nationalists.

Pugh says that because of safety concerns, only she and the contractor knew the removals were happening until right before the operation started.

The statues had already been a matter of city debate for years. In 2015, a panel of scholars heard comments from more than 200 people about whether the statues should stay or go and what should be done with them if they were removed.

“There were a wide variety of opinions about the statues and about how we should remember Baltimore’s complicated situation during the Civil War and how we should remember the Jim Crow era here,” says University of Baltimore history professor Elizabeth Nix, who was part of that commission. “Really, those statues are products of the Jim Crow era and not the Civil War.”

Read the rest here.

Historians on Confederate Monuments

monument-gettysburg-P

The American Historical Association has put together the most comprehensive list of historian’s reflections on what to do about Confederate monuments.  Executive Director Jim Grossman did 19 interviews on the topic in the span of four days. Thanks.

Other historians on the list include David Bell, Kevin Boyle, Yoni Appelbaum, Justin Behrend, David Blight, W. Fitzhugh Brundage, Edward Carson, Jane Censer, Marcia Chatelain, Jane Dailey, Rebecca Davis, Jennifer Evans, Eric Foner, Lesley Gordon, Annette Gordon-Reed, Sarah Handley-Cousins, Caroline Janney, Ibram Kendi, Jon Sensbach, Manisha Sinha, Jeremi Suri, Jonathan Zimmerman, Ed Ayers, Brian Balogh, Ruth Ben-Gait, Nathan Connolly, Donna Gabaccia, Joy Hakim, Sara Patenaude, Joshua Rothman, Adam Rothman, and Jonathan Sarna,

The size of this list is encouraging.  I am glad to see historians with expertise in this area engaging the public in such a profound way.  Let’s keep it up!

The President of Fuller Seminary on Evangelicalism and Race

Fuller

Mark Labberton is president of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.  If you have never heard of Fuller, I encourage you to read George Marsden’s history of the school: Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism.

In a letter to the Los Angeles Times, Labberton responds to Randall Balmer’s recent Times piece on evangelicals and race.   Here is a taste of Labberton’s letter:

There are white people in America who call themselves evangelical yet demonstrate complicity with a white supremacy that scandalizes the gospel — and there are other white evangelicals in America who categorically and publicly disagree.

Balmer points out what many evangelical leaders have been decrying for years and what this election made apparent: that culture sometimes overshadows the gospel in determining the evangelical political vision. Evangelicalism is a movement dedicated to the primacy of faith in the way of Jesus, so this confusion of priorities is a crisis.

The word “evangelical” has morphed from being commonly used to describe a set of theological and spiritual commitments into a passionately defended, theo-political brand. Worse, that brand has become synonymous with social arrogance, ignorance and prejudice — all antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Balmer’s claims, while not new, are deservedly painful for millions of white evangelicals who are deeply offended by racism, repelled by Trump, and who vocally deny the false theo-political brand that co-opts the faith we hold dear.

Read the entire letter here.

Court Evangelical Richard Land Stays With Trump

Land

Richard Land, the controversial Southern Baptist leader who recently boasted that the court evangelicals have “unprecedented access” to the White House, told Bruce Henderson of the Charlotte Observer that he has no intention of resigning from his position as an evangelical adviser to Donald Trump.

Here is a taste of Henderson’s piece:

A Charlotte-area evangelical leader said he won’t resign from a Trump administration advisory council despite discomfort with President Donald Trump’s comments on the Aug. 12 violence in Charlottesville, Va., that left a woman dead.

Trump came under fire for blaming “many sides” for the clash between white nationalists and counter-protesters. Two days later, the president explicitly condemned racism and the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Matthews, said in a statement Thursday that Trump’s initial comments were “inartful and begged to be misconstrued and misunderstood in ways that are very hurtful to people.”

But Land said he’ll continue to serve on the president’s Evangelical Faith Advisory Council, saying “Jesus did not turn away from those who may have seemed brash with their words or behavior.”

“A leader presented with the challenges that President Trump is facing needs counsel and prayer from Bible-believing servants now more than ever,” the statement said. “Now is not the time to quit or retreat, but just the opposite – to lean in closer.”

Read the entire article here.

“Lean in closer.”  I understand the logic and I might even agree with Land if I thought that the court evangelicals were there to rebuke Trump in the way that the Old Testament court prophet Nathan rebuked King David.  But so far, apart from a Supreme Court order and a useless executive order on religious liberty, the court evangelicals have had little influence on this reckless POTUS.  In fact, after his recent Arizona speech this week one could argue that he is getting worse.

John Danforth Pulls No Punches in Condemning Trump

John_danforthThe former GOP Senator and ordained Episcopal priest tells us what he really thinks about the POTUS in a Washington Post op-ed titled “Trump is exactly what Republicans are not.”

A taste:

Now comes Trump, who is exactly what Republicans are not, who is exactly what we have opposed in our 160-year history. We are the party of the Union, and he is the most divisive president in our history. There hasn’t been a more divisive person in national politics since George Wallace.

It isn’t a matter of occasional asides, or indiscreet slips of the tongue uttered at unguarded moments. Trump is always eager to tell people that they don’t belong here, whether it’s Mexicans, Muslims, transgender people or another group. His message is, “You are not one of us,” the opposite of “e pluribus unum.” And when he has the opportunity to unite Americans, to inspire us, to call out the most hateful among us, the KKK and the neo-Nazis, he refuses.

To my fellow Republicans: We cannot allow Donald Trump to redefine the Republican Party. That is what he is doing, as long as we give the impression by our silence that his words are our words and his actions are our actions. We cannot allow that impression to go unchallenged.

As has been true since our beginning, we Republicans are the party of Lincoln, the party of the Union. We believe in our founding principle. We are proud of our illustrious history. We believe that we are an essential part of present-day American politics. Our country needs a responsibly conservative party. But our party has been corrupted by this hateful man, and it is now in peril.

In honor of our past and in belief in our future, for the sake of our party and our nation, we Republicans must disassociate ourselves from Trump by expressing our opposition to his divisive tactics and by clearly and strongly insisting that he does not represent what it means to be a Republican.

Read the entire piece here.

 

More Reporting on the Liberty University Alumni Returning Diplomas

Senator Bernie Sanders Speaks At Liberty University Convocation

Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr.

We have covered this story here and here and here.  Sojourners web editor Sandi Villarreal has talked to some of these Liberty University alumni.  Here is a taste of her piece:

Falwell was one of the earliest evangelical supporters of the Trump campaign and now serves on the president’s Evangelical Advisory Board as well as a White House education task force. In an interview with ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, Falwell defended the president’s “many sides” comments on Charlottesville, saying Trump’s political incorrectness is one of the reasons he supports him.

A week before that interview, Dave Oldenkamp, associate pastor at Yakima Alliance Church in Yakima, Wash., and a Liberty alumnus, stepped to the pulpit of his church to offer a clear message: Racism is sin, and the church has the responsibility to be ministers of reconciliation who fight against injustice.

“Reconciliation is active. It’s alive,” he told his congregation. “ … I think for each one of us we have to ask ourselves some tough questions — not about the things that we’ve done, but maybe the things we’ve not done.”

Oldenkamp has three sons, one of whom is black. He said he felt the need to say something not only as a pastor, but as a father. Oldenkamp, who received his master’s degree in Christian Ministry from Liberty in 2009, said Charlottesville — including President Trump’s response, and Falwell’s defense of it — was a tipping point for him. He signed the letter to the board and plans to send his diploma back.

“When I look at my son, and I look up on my wall and see my diploma, I feel this disconnect,” he said. “… If I’m not willing to do this simple act, how can I call myself his dad? How can I call myself a pastor or Christian if I’m not willing to speak?”

The alumni group’s letter to the board focuses on a loss of Christian witness, calls out Trump’s “open disrespect for ostensible Christian ideals,” and criticizes Liberty’s leadership for failing to rebuke his positions.

“Mr. Trump is ‘a liar, and the truth is not in him.’ 1 John 2:4. He is a misogynist. He has disavowed the need for personal repentance and alleged that he is not a sinner,” the letter reads.

“The University has failed to rebuke these positions and has instead excused him, denied the obvious, or withheld condemnation. In other words, degraded its core mission and defiled its core beliefs, substituting the worship of power and influence for the worship of God. Ten years after Jerry Falwell’s death, the decades-long criticisms of the concept of a Religious Right have been proven true.”

Read the entire article here.

Robert Lee

LeeWe live in a very strange world.  I am sure by now you have heard about ESPN football announcer Robert Lee.  On Tuesday, ESPN decided to remove him from covering the season’s first University of Virginia football game because he shares a name with the Confederate general whose statue triggered racial violence in Charlottesville.  According to this piece at The Atlantic, ESPN wanted to protect their Robert Lee from “memes and jokes.”  I guess that didn’t work out very well.

So what about all the other people in the United States named Robert Lee?  Julie Beck is asking the same question.  Here is a taste:

Both Robert and Lee are extremely common names. According to the website HowManyofMe.com, which searches a database of U.S. Census data, there are 5,128,282 Roberts in the United States, 731,046 people with the last name Lee, and a whopping 11,518 Robert Lees…

Surely some of them were named explicitly for Robert E. Lee, but many—probably most—were not. Wattenberg says that there used to be many people named for General Lee, but nowadays, “homage names are just an endangered species.” If someone chooses to go by the full “Robert E. Lee,” you might reasonably presume that they are trying to play up the Confederate connection, Wattenberg says. But the sports broadcaster Robert Lee is Asian American, and “one knows that broadcaster is not from a family proud of its Confederate ancestry,” she says.

Lee is the 22nd most common last name in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and the people who share it are a fairly diverse group. White people make up 40.1 percent of Lees, 37.8 percent are Asian or Pacific Islander, 17.4 percent are black, 1.3 percent are Hispanic, and 1 percent are Native American.

One Robert Lee, who lives in San Francisco and works as a business analyst, didn’t fully understand the significance his name holds in the United States until he went to college. He lived in Hong Kong until he was 18, and then went to Brown University.

Read the entire piece here.

Masur: Abraham Lincoln Salvaged the Thomas Jefferson “We Desire from the One Who Lived”

1f3c3-declaration

Rutgers University historian Louis Masur argues that Abraham Lincoln took a document written by a Virginia slaveholder and used it to advance a free society.

Here is a taste of his piece at The American Scholar:

It took Lincoln to salvage the Jefferson we desire from the one who lived. Lincoln grounded his understanding of the nation on the Declaration of Independence and argued time and again that the phrase all men are created equal included blacks. “All honor to Jefferson,” proclaimed Lincoln. The Declaration “set up a standard maxim for free society . . . constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people, of all colors, everywhere.”

Lincoln embraced gradual, deliberate change and exemplified that approach. He too had believed in white superiority: “I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races. … There is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together.” Lincoln supported colonization, though he realized it was not possible on a large scale. He always hated slavery, but as president refused at first to act against the institution or make provisions for whites and blacks to live peacefully in freedom.

The Civil War compelled Lincoln to bring Jefferson’s maxim of a free society to fruition. We can watch him change his mind over time. He moved from saying he could not attack slavery where it existed to freeing slaves in Confederate areas not under Union control, and then advocating for a 13th Amendment abolishing it throughout the United States; he shifted from embracing colonization to authorizing the enlistment of black soldiers; he stopped believing that blacks could not attain political equality and, in the last speech he ever gave, publicly endorsed black suffrage. Thinking about Lincoln, civil rights activist and historian W. E. B. Du Bois exclaimed, “I love him not because he was perfect but because he was not and yet triumphed.”

Read the entire piece here.

An Architectural Historian Weighs-In On Confederate Monuments

Confederate_soldier_monument,_Union_County,_AR_IMG_2583

Back in the days when I was a post-doctoral fellow with the Lilly Fellow in Humanities and the Arts, I had a Valparaiso University office next to a young architectural historian named Louis Nelson.  (Actually, we were also next-door neighbors on Valparaiso’s “famous” McIntire Court).  Nelson left Valpo after a year in the program and headed off to Charlottesville to become a faculty member in the School of Architecture at the University of Virginia.  Today he is a Professor of Architectural History and the Associate Dean of the school.  Nice work.

Over at the website of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, Nelson argues that Confederate monuments should stay and be contextualized.  Here is a taste of his interview with the website:

The national debate surrounding confederate monuments is often presented in very narrow terms – as a battle between those who want them to stay and those who want them to go. Is there another approach?

I have consistently argued that we need to situate these monuments as the historical objects that they are. What often gets lost in this discussion is the fact that these are not Civil War monuments; these are Jim Crow monuments, largely a product of the 1910s, not the late 1860s. We need to understand and interpret them in this context. They were erected amid the apex of lynching in the American South. They were erected as localized instantiations of Plessy vs. Ferguson, the so-called “separate but equal” law, which upheld state racial segregation for public facilities and which triggered thousands of local-level actions against minorities throughout the country….

How can these monuments encourage such dialogue?

The landscape around them needs to be curated thoughtfully, with this historical framework in mind. Such statues cannot stand alone in the middle of a square with azaleas. I have argued that we need to transform these open spaces into open-air museums, where we can learn about the simultaneous histories of lynching, Confederate monuments and Jim Crow policies. These are powerful objects so they will need powerful recontextualization. Many argue that this is not possible, but I have great faith in architects, landscape architects, and public historians to effect profound change. I’m also an academic, so I can’t help but suggest some reading. What Can and Can’t Be Said: Race, Uplift and Monument Building in the Contemporary South by Dell Upton is a great read. We need to educate ourselves about this history. It should not be erased.

Read the entire interview here.

Andrew Young Thinks The Removing Of Confederate Monuments Is Not Worth The Time Or Effort

Young

Andrew Young (second from left) with Bayard Rustin, William Fitts Ryan, James Farmer, and John Lewis (Wikimedia Commons)

As some of you may recall, I spent some time this summer exploring the history of the Civil Rights Movement on a bus tour through the South.  It is hard to visit Civil Rights museums and sites without encountering images of Andrew Young.  For those who are not familiar with him, Young was part of Martin Luther King Jr.s inner circle.  He served as the executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a congressman from Georgia, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and the mayor of Atlanta.

In several public statements in the wake of the recent events in Charlottesville, Young has argued that we should stop spending so much time debating monuments and get to work on more important things that will help all Americans.  Below are a few Young quotes from a recent post by Jim Galloway at the Atlanta Journal Constitution‘s blog “Political Insider.”

“I think it’s too costly to refight the Civil War. We have paid too great a price in trying to bring people together…

“I personally feel that we made a mistake in fighting over the Confederate flag here in Georgia. Or that that was an answer to the problem of the death of nine people – to take down the Confederate flag in South Carolina.”

The reference here is to 1956 George governor Roy Barnes’s decision to retire the Georgia state flag because it contained a confederate battle emblem.  Galloway writes that Barnes’s decision “was a primary reason he lost bid for re-election, split the state Democratic party, and ushered in the current season of Republican rule.”

Young adds:

“I think it’s too costly to refight the Civil War. We have paid too great a price in trying to bring people together…

“I personally feel that we made a mistake in fighting over the Confederate flag here in Georgia. Or that that was an answer to the problem of the death of nine people – to take down the Confederate flag in South Carolina.”

Read the rest here.    Later in the piece Young says that the removal of the flag and the political changes that came with it also resulted in Atlanta’s current infrastructure problems.  The bottom line for Young, if I read him correctly, is that we only have so much time.  Is and has the fight over monuments and Confederate symbols really worth it?

And here is Young on Sunday’s Meet the Press

And here is Young talking about the Stone Mountain monument:

Some activists will say that Young has probably grown too old and too irrelevant. He represents an older liberalism and non-violent approach to combating racism that has been long forgotten in American political life. As he told Chuck Todd on Meet the Press, “turn down the emotions and turn on the mind.”

I will let the Civil Rights historians decide whether or not Young is best representing the spirit of  his own movement here and, perhaps more importantly, if this approach is still useful today.

Some Local Coverage on the Liberty University Grads Returning Diplomas

liberty-trump

We reported on this over the weekend. Some Liberty University alumni are returning their diplomas to protest Liberty president Jerry Falwell Jr.’s failure to openly condemn Donald Trump’s comments in the wake of Charlottesville.

Here is some local coverage from Lynchburg’s The News & Advance:

Rebekah Tilley, a 2002 LU graduate who now works in higher education in Iowa, is one of a number of alumni who intend to return their diplomas in protest of Falwell’s ties to the White House.

“We are doing so to protest Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s continued efforts to act as a spokesperson for President Trump even after his profound lack of moral leadership following the events in Charlottesville. Falwell’s vocal support of President Trump has made it such that you can’t think of Liberty University without associating the institution and its alumni with President Trump.

“When David Duke and the current president of your undergrad program are both applauding the President’s comments in his press conference after Charlottesville, returning our diplomas was the only thing that seemed appropriate,” Tilley wrote to The News & Advance via email.

In a phone interview Monday with The News & Advance, Falwell described the plan by alumni to return their diplomas as “disingenuous” and “political grandstanding” that was “not to be taken seriously.”

Falwell noted if alums do return the physical copy of their diplomas, they’ll still have LU degrees.

“They earned a degree from Liberty University, they’ll still have a degree from Liberty, they’ll still be able to use it on their resume when they seek employment, so it’s really dishonest for them to say that they’re returning their degree. It’s not possible to do that,” Falwell said.

Falwell described the alumni speaking out as having a “political axe to grind” with him.

“They’re trying to drag their school into it because they don’t like the fact that one school employee, namely me, supports the president. It’s very childish of all of them, I believe,” he said.

Read the entire article here.

Liberty University Responds To Diploma-Returning Students

trump-liberty

On Sunday we reported on a growing Facebook group of Liberty University alumni who are returning their diplomas to the Lynchburg, Virginia Christian school because the president, Jerry Falwell Jr., is a court evangelical and has remained a court evangelical in the wake of Charlottesville.

Yesterday Liberty University responded with this statement:

Liberty University strongly supports our students’ rights to express their own political opinions, including any opposition they have to their school leader’s relationship with this president of the US, just as other students may have opposed leadership of liberal institutions supporting previous Presidents. The tactic of returning diplomas has been used by students of many other schools to draw attention to various causes, but let’s also remember that those same diplomas are quite helpful in helping these graduates secure well-paying jobs.

Snark: “an attitude of expression of mocking irreverence and sarcasm.”

On a Fox News podcast Falwell Jr. called the protesting alumni “a joke.”  I wonder how long Falwell Jr. will get away with describing his university’s alumni this way.