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Blog #12: Remembering the Confederacy

As I said in Blog Post 11, I have been researching at Fondren to find missing data for Courtney’s Google Spreadsheet and consolidating the information we have into descriptions of our pinpoints.  I will do more of this, especially once classes end on Friday.  Also, if the group agrees, I may drive to the different pinpoints to take pictures.  Ross has been collecting Geodata, but I don’t think we’ve taken any images of the locations.


The question of how the Civil War should be remembered and how white Southerners should honor their ancestors is a tricky one.  It is reasonable and understandable that Southerners feel the need to honor their ancestors for their bravery and sacrifices during the Civil War.  However, one cannot separate these displays of bravery and sacrifice from the cause they supported, the enslavement of other humans.  Therefore, it’s important to ask: is there “any way for white Southerners to honor their [Confederate] forbears without insulting” black Southerners?

In some ways, this is an impossible question to answer because black Southerners do not all share one opinion about the remembrance and celebration of the Confederacy.  Horwitz talked to several black people at the Martin Luther King events who were not bothered by it.  As one woman told him: “Whites have their day, now we’ve got our own” (Horwitz 43).  Clearly, this woman and Michael King, the preacher Horwitz also talked to, have different levels of tolerance when it comes to the celebration of the Confederacy.  It is impossible to come up with a one-size-fits-all solution to this conundrum as long as a variety of opinions exist.

However, the solution that is likely to be least insulting to the vast majority of black Southerners is for white Southerners to honor and commemorate their ancestors while simultaneously acknowledging the truthful history about the Civil War.  The Children of the Confederacy meeting that Horwitz attends is insulting, not because the members want to remember their ancestors, but because the meeting white-washes the reasons for the Civil War.  The organization actively indoctrinates children with false ideas about the cause of the Civil War through the “catechism” (Horwitz 37).  Michael King sums it up best when he says “Remember your ancestors, but remember what they fought for too, and recognize it was wrong” (Horwitz 44).  Instead of forcing children to memorize propaganda about why the South was great, these types of organizations should recognize that although many individual Confederate soldiers displayed traits like valor and honor, the cause they served was not honorable.

 Any laments about how the South should’ve won the war or that it’s a pity the South lost the war are inappropriate methods of commemoration.  The material we’ve read this semester and covered in class makes it clear that the major aim of the Confederacy, despite what some Southerners claim, was to maintain and even expand slavery.  Any commemoration that celebrates the cause the Confederacy was fighting for is ultimately celebrating slavery, something that is probably deeply insulting to even the most “Confederate-tolerant” Southern African-American.  If Southern whites want to celebrate the admirable traits their ancestors displayed in the heat of battle, that is fine, but it should be clear that it is not a celebration of the Confederate cause the fighting was over.

I do not think that the statues and memorials to Confederate heroes that exist currently should be removed or replaced.  They serve as an important reminder of not just the history they are explicitly commemorating, but of the history that came after the Civil War.  The ways in which the Civil War was remembered ten, twenty, and fifty years after it ended, when these memorials were being erected is important to understand and preserve.  On page 104 of Brown, the erection of a statue of Arthur Ashe on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia is discussed.  This seems like a very good way of dealing with Confederate monuments that do not represent modern values and attitudes.  Instead of taking down the statue and pretending that no one ever held those values, the new statues highlight the change in values and attitudes over time.

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