Debating Wilson & Jefferson memorialization; Holocaust Museum chimes in on refugees; more on Hollywood & the Lost Cause; zombies & Civil War weaponry



Ben Carson is flubbing American history, AGAIN. This time he credits Jefferson with “craft[ing]” the Constitution. Of course Thomas wasn’t there at the creation (although one could point out that his communications with, and influences on, Madison did play a role). But let’s be honest, Carson is not the only one that is confused about our history, and about the Founders in particular. It seems that everyone tries to lay claim to their principles, failing to understand that they were as divided political as we are, and about much the same issues.

And speaking of previous presidents; Woodrow Wilson’s legacy is under assault at Princeton. (Personally, I am not a Wilson fan for way more than just his racist sentiments and actions, but that’s another story). Of course these sorts of conversations are taking place on campuses and in communities all across the country (like here at the University of Alabama, for example), and it shows no signs of letting up anytime soon. We all suspected that what started out as a discussion about Confederate memorialization would likely not end there. I hope that whether we support renaming/dismantling or not,  we can agree that these conversations that force us to be honest about our history and its symbols can be productive of good. (That is, as long as we truly listen to each other).

And speaking of both Jefferson and the attack on monuments and memorials, it looks like Tom will be the next big target. I like what Annette Gordon-Reed has to say about that here in this article. “This conversation about statues and symbols really got going with calls to take symbols and figures from the Confederacy out of the public sphere. Then it shifted to every famous person who was an enslaver and/or white supremacist, basically letting the Confederates off the hook. That’s a lot of people to be disappeared. There is every difference in the world between being one of the founders of the United States and being a part of group of people who fought to destroy the United States.” Yes, yes. Indeed.

The best thing I have seen over the last couple of days is that the Holocaust Museum has decided to interject themselves into the conversation about Syrian refugees. I’ve previously mentioned how I brought this historical parallel to the attention of my students, and I dare say that I’m not the only one that has had similar discussions.

Over on Civil War Pop, Christian McWhirter has a perceptive discussion of the potential that the upcoming film The Free State of Jones has for furthering the recent Hollywood trend of dismantling the “Lost Cause” that Hollywood itself played a role in nationalizing. I think he is dead on, and Victoria Bynum (who’s book the movie is adapted from) chimes in as well in the comments.

So what do Civil War weapons and zombies have in common? Absolutely nothing, but apparently one public history sites feels that the Walking Dead can be a way to get younger folks interested in learning some lessons about Civil War weaponry. Here Nick Sacco nicely blasts such a notion, and does so in the context of an interesting discussion about public history and reaching “millennials.”


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