Ken Burns’ Civil War has a split personality?; Ky clerk needs history lesson; Americans & conspiracy theories; women & telephones; TX textbooks; history of “Heritage not Hate”


Kevin Levin is on his best game with his most recent post on Civil War Memory, arguing that Ken Burns’ Civil War series has a “split personality” when it comes to depicting slavery as the cause of secession. This is a product, he argues, of Shelby Foote’s commentary. To be fair to Foote, if you read his comments at the end of the second volume of his famous trilogy (page 971), it is clear that he understood what caused the war, connecting it to the events of the Civil Rights movement that was at its height when he was working on the books (and which, he admitted, reminded him of what was “least admirable” about the Confederacy). Still, his comments in the series are indeed problematic, especially since the film was clearly edited in a way to set up a contrast in interpretations between him and Barbara J. Fields. So, Levin muses, perhaps the fact that so many people today still seem confused about the causes of the Civil War is a reflection of their exposure to Burn’s series.

That County Clerk in Kentucky that is taking a stand against gay marriage needs a history lesson. “Not everyone immediately accepted the Supreme Court’s 1967 ruling about interracial marriage, either.”

Hard to imagine (or maybe it is not), but there are some people think the recent shooting in Virginia was staged as part of a conspiracy theory by the government to find justification to restrict our 2nd amendment right (yep.) This is insanity of course, but Americans have a long history of buying conspiracy theories. Why?

So today is the anniversary of the first female telephone operator. Why were women used on early switchboards, and what role did it have in labor history? Time has the answers.

I am ALL FOR bashing the way history is taught in Texas, but I think this blog post that got a lot of circulation today misreads the Texas textbooks’ intentions. What the blogger sees as trying to push an “it wasn’t all bad!” agenda is actually an attempt (albeit a not completely successful one) to discuss slave agency, the role that slaves played in shaping the economy and culture of the South, and their different forms of slave resistance so that they were not completely degraded and controlled by their masters. Texas has a LONG way to go (and trust me, I am uncomfortable defending them here) but I don’t think this was very objective assessment of their textbooks.

Like many colleges and universities, the College of William and Mary finds itself in a debate over the Confederate iconography on their campus. Here is a personal and particularly insightful essay by history Professor Scott Nelson about the controversy on his campus surrounding their removal of tablet. “Some people have argued that changing the mace and the concrete tablet on the Wren Building is an act of ‘political correctness.’ Yet it was a kind of 1920s political correctness that led people to put the battle flag on the mace in the first place. It certainly wasn’t a reflection of the College’s actual history.”

We’ve been hearing a lot from the “heritage not hate” crowd these days, but where did that mantra come from? It actually has a very short but interesting history.

In Poland, the Austerlitz Museum decided to help visitors combat the intense summer heat by installing misting stations. For some, however, these things seem way too much like the showers used to murder the camp’s inmates.


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