Verdict on Mercy Street; the Lost Cause lives; U of Alabama’s problematic building names; Trump’s bad history lesson; Hitler’s manhood shortcomings



Mercy Street has ended its short 6 episode first season with no news yet about whether it will be renewed. Let’s hope it is. As Christian McWhirter noted on Civil War Pop, the show was often less than riveting because of some weak storylines, some poorly drawn characters, and  some structural issues.  But I think it sometimes delivered good drama, and its two major characters are compelling and well drawn. Still, McWhirter’s analysis nails it pretty well and I agree with most of what he asserts.  I do think he is a bit too hard on the last episode, however, as I found myself having my first true emotional reaction to this show in this episode, and felt they actually built some decent drama in making us wonder how the plot to blow up the hospital would fail (we knew it had to fail, but how and why?) Historians complained about the storyline involving Booth (me included), and while it was completely unnecessary, it was handled better than most of us had feared. PBS was quick to point out that there apparently actually was an alleged plot to blow up the hospital, but admitted they added Booth and Lincoln in for dramatic effect (which again, was totally unnecessary). Still, despite that mess, the show handled its history very well, and we can all be thankful for that. With some work, Mercy Street could become a show that makes a significant pop cultural impact on how many people perceive the Civil War and add significantly to the recent assaults on the Lost Cause.

However, lest we get too excited and believe that the war against the Lost Cause has been won, check out this news story video from Jackson, Ms. As many misinformed comments in the story reveal (including misconceptions about African American “service” to the Confederacy), the struggle continues.

Meanwhile, I knew it was only a matter of time before the debate over Confederate memorials and building names would make its way to here at the University of Alabama. I love that this started because one of our history majors decided to start an online petition to rename a building named after John Tyler Morgan. She proposed changing it to honor the University’s most famous literary giant, the recently deceased Harper Lee. A solid idea considering that Morgan Hall is the home to the English Department. The story picked up a lot of attention nationally (even though as of now the petition has only a few thousand signatures on a campus with 36,000 +), with this piece from the Christian Science Monitor being the best.  Our student newspaper has come out in support of the idea, but given the old boy network of alumni that run this state and its public institutions, I have little expectation that it will happen. Further, this case is complicated because Morgan is one of the primary reasons why the University survived as an institution after the Civil War, as the senator secured federal funds to rebuild.  However, I do think there is a very real possibility that this will result in some new plaques being placed in or around the building that places Morgan and his troubling history (which includes KKK leadership) into context            . . . and we need that for a couple of other buildings around here, particularly Nott Hall (named after Josiah Nott, look him up if you don’t know his abhorrent history). I have made clear elsewhere I feel this the best thing to do about these situations. In the meantime, the controversy has already led to several students asking me my opinion on the issue, which of course leads to a nice “teachable moment.” I hope that whatever solution emerges from this only builds and sustains that.

Meanwhile, another story from my campus also went viral this week, and it also involves current students (in this case a recent graduate) confronting the University of Alabama’s past connections to slavery. I really dig this one. 

Oh that Trump: the other day in South Carolina he made some inaccurate historical statements in order to sound mean and tough to his mindless minions. Using Jack Pershing and the Philippines as an example, he got the facts wrong and drew the wrong conclusions. I’m sure this surprises no one.

So remember that story from a few months ago about researchers finding proof that, as long rumored, Hitler had only one testicle? Well, now we get this new (yet old) theory about his penis size. I’ll just drop this one here for you good people without comment.

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