Colonial necklines & the female body; movies & rebellious slaves; a new (musical) frontier for history education?; those pesky Cold Harbor myths;


So it seems that a picture posted by Colonial Williamsburg of one of their costumed interpreters provoked an internet user to complain that the image revealed too much cleavage, thus setting a bad example for younger viewers. Rather than ignore the ignorant comment (which is the product of over-sexualizing the female body), historian/interpreter/millinery apprentice Abby Cox opted to use it as a “teachable moment,” posting this interesting discussion of 18th century women’s fashions, and in particular, their necklines.

Good opinion piece here from The Root on why we need more slave movies (like the upcoming Birth of a Nation). However, I am troubled by the conclusion that seems to suggest that rebellious slaves like Turner were the only ones that stood up and said “eff this” and resisted.  I am VERY excited about this upcoming movie for much the same reasons as the author of this article—we need to take a shotgun and blow away the cultural myths that still survive about the old south (moonlight and magnolias). But, like the amazing film 12 Years a Slave, I am a bit worried that these movies will perpetuate the myth that most slaves were dehumanized automatons, and that it was the few bold ones like Turner (or the fictional Django) that we should see as heroically standing up against their oppressors. In truth, slaves, whether they rebelled or not, were incredibly strong and resilient people that found creative ways to resist complete degradation and create a world and parts of themselves that were not controlled by their masters. I want that story told, too. Maybe the upcoming remake of Roots will serve that function.

We all know what a hit that Hamilton has become on Broadway, and that even school children are being brought to see the performance as a history lesson. As audiences rave, the question arises as to whether this demonstrates what a powerful educational tool that music could be for more effectively connecting people to historical figures and events. Over on the Gettysburg Compiler, Megan McNish ponders whether this suggests a new direction for public history to go. What about the classroom, too?

7,000 men were killed at the Battle of Cold Harbor in less than 30 minutes, because Grant was a butcher! Right? Well, nothing makes the folks that work (or worked, like me) at Richmond National Battlefield more angry than when we hear those myths repeated over and over again. A VERY large amount of people that show up at the site come there adamantly believing this myth, and often bristle when the rangers tried to disabuse them of that notion. Today, the folks at the Civil War Monitor have posted a video interview in which Historian/Park Ranger Mike Gorman sets the record straight. Check it out (and you’ll also get a good dose of Mike’s personality)


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