Salem “witch” site pinpointed; Bronze Age Pompeii; Fleming’s strange essay on slavery; excitement builds for Mercy Street


I visited the Salem and Danvers, Massachusetts witch trial sites a few years ago and found them all the more interesting because they are largely obscure and hard to find. Still, I was disappointed to learn that the site of the “witch” hangings was not definitely known. Bummer. But now it seems that the site has been definitively pinpointed, and that it will soon be interpreted for visitors. Awesome. I hope to get back one day soon. I’m sure this was mainly an effort to boost tourism, but I am all for preserving and interpreting as many historical sites as possible, no matter the motivation.

Meanwhile, in England researchers have discovered what they are calling a “Bronze Age Pompeii.” The archeological project has been going on for a couple of years now, but has recently been in the news. It seems that the original inhabitants fled in haste because of a fire, and that as a result, they left behind a site that reveals much about bronze age life.

As we know, there are lots of news stories about Confederate memorials that are under attack, but I loved this one out of North Carolina. In Hillsborough, they have decided to remove the words “Confederate Memorial” from the portico of a building that used to be a public library but is now a county history museum. The humor in the article is that the author writes “When word got out [about the removal], a bunch of angry white people banded together to take back Orange County from those who would deprive them of their right to look at monuments to the South’s racist past.” Excellent way to put it! The other interesting thing is that after the removal, the county is working on some interpretive signs that will discuss the history of the building and how it was once a “Confederate Memorial Public Library,” presumably placing this past in the context of the Lost Cause. Perfect. Nicely done, Hillsborough, NC!

Wow. Did you guys see this essay from Thomas Fleming on “two ways we could have solved slavery” without a war? He argues that “The South’s embrace of slavery was not rooted in greed or a repulsive assumption of racial superiority.” WHAT? Read it, and it will have your head spinning by the end. The responses to this essay are sure to be swift and brutal. Stay tuned.

Many of us historians are giddy with excitement about the new PBS series, Mercy Street that is set to premiere on Sunday. (Let’s pray it doesn’t let us down!) Over on Civil War Pop, Christian McWhirter announces his intentions to review every episode, essentially turning his site over to Mercy Street commentary for the next six weeks. Meanwhile, here is a great piece from Clint Schemmer about the series, the production, the storylines, the sources it relies upon, and the stellar cast.  (Personally, besides the history, I am excited to spend the next six weeks watching Mary Elizabeth Winstead, but maybe that’s just me 🙂 ).

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