Plaque at Unity Park, Gettysburg
Scott Hancock, a professor of history and African American studies at Gettysburg College, reflects on “unity” in the wake of the Civil War, “unity” as memorialized at the newest designated space on the Gettysburg battlefield, and “unity” in the age of Trump.
Here is a taste of his piece at Philly.com:
The Unity Park monument mourns the “many young people from both the North and the South who sacrificed and endured so much for our country.” However, those who sacrificed and endured for the Confederacy did not do it for “our country” but for their country — a country that wrote into its constitution that there could be no “law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves” and that slavery “shall be recognized and protected by Congress.”
Those who sacrificed and endured for the Union did so to end the Confederacy. A sign in Unity Park describes how a Confederate officer told 12-year-old Union musician Johnny Clem to surrender, but Clem wasn’t interested in “unity.” He shot the officer, and was promoted to sergeant. Apparently, young Johnny Clem knew that some differences aren’t trivial.
Lies that try to cover serious differences under the banner of unity mean somebody will get kicked to the curb. When this country pushed for unity after the Civil War, putting differences aside meant putting “problems” aside. And the problems were people: black people. Unity meant ignoring those white Southerners who lynched 4,000 people, burned Black Tulsa to the ground, robbed and murdered the black residents of Rosewood, and enshrined 100 years of racial terrorism across the South. Today, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions says stemming violent crime is a priority, using a one-year increase in crime to justify policies that produced decades of high incarceration rates, while ignoring decreases in crime in 22 of the last 26 years, we had better pay attention.
Read the entire piece here.
Jill Ogiline Titus of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College informs us of this great opportunity for students to participate in this year’s summer conference on Reconstruction and the legacy of the Civil War:
Interested in spending five days in Gettysburg exploring the Civil War through small group discussions, battlefield tours, and lectures? Scholarships are now available for HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS, K-12 TEACHERS, AND PUBLIC HISTORIANS to attend the 2016 CWI Summer Conference, “Reconstruction and the Legacy of the Civil War,” which will continue the 150th commemoration by examining linkages between the war years and its revolutionary and violent aftermath. The conference – one of the first of its kind for a popular audience – will explore topics ranging from Civil War memory to comparative emancipation, Reconstruction in the West, veterans’ return home, and reconstructing southern womanhood. All scholarships include an air-conditioned dorm room, meals for the duration of the conference, tours, and tuition fees. Applications are due FEBRUARY 15.
It is freshman orientation time at colleges and universities across the country. Most schools have become very good at planning events and information sessions for first-year students. Some colleges have games and picnics. Other schools send freshmen into the streets to serve others.
But few of these freshman orientation traditions beat the Gettysburg College “First-Year Walk
.” Students walk from the campus through the streets of the historic town of Gettysburg. Along the way they learn about the three-day battle that took place there in July 1863. The walk ends at the Gettysburg cemetery where Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is read at the spot where it was original delivered on November 19, 1863.
What impresses me the most about the “First-Year Walk” is the message that it is sending to incoming students. In an age in which so may colleges and universities are trying to ride the STEM wave, and humanistic learning is under attack in the academy, the good folks at Gettysburg are letting its freshman class know right from the beginning that history, ideas, memory, place, speech, and political philosophy matter and will be an important part, if not the defining part, of their four-year college career.
Here is a brief video of the 2015 “First Year Walk.” I was also pleased to see that my friend Jill Ogline Titus
was picked to give this year’s keynote presentation. Jill is the Associate Director of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg and her husband Sean has done some adjunct work in the Messiah College History Department.