Historians on the Comey firing; Thoughts on Underground’s second season; Jefferson Davis gets hauled off; Fiorina and Colonial Williamsburg?


Tubman stealing from the collection plate??

I’ve been away from this site for about a week now because of the grading that comes with the end of another semester. Anything happen while I was gone?

HA! Look, there is really no point in me commenting here about the Comey firing, because you have already read all the stories about the parallels to Watergate. Here’s a good run-down of what some top historians have been saying about it on social media. Otherwise, I’ll spare you and just move on . . .

WGN’s Underground wrapped up its second season last night. I have not commented much since the season began (except on that awesome episode that was exclusively dedicated to a Harriet Tubman speech), and that is largely because I have struggled with how I feel about it. On the one hand, I like that it developed the growing rift in the abolitionist movement over the more violent tactics and fanaticism of John Brown, and it seems that a third season of the show will depict the Harper’s Ferry Raid. Further, if my Twitter feed is an indication, the show is becoming increasingly beloved by people who are excited that we have a pop cultural depiction of the Antebellum era that features an empowered slave community. On the other hand, as I have expressed many times before, I think that this recent pop cultural trend toward focusing on violent resistance is problematic, because it does a disservice to the overwhelming majority of the enslaved that resisted the complete control of their lives in more subtle and realistic ways (Mercy Street was far superior in depicting this). This season of Underground even featured a ridiculous scene straight out of Django Unchained, in which our heroes brought down an entire planation home in a fiery explosion and then made it from Georgia all the way back to Ohio with apparent ease. Ugh. I also noticed a strong unevenness in the episodes, which I am chalking up to disparity in the quality of direction. And what was with that scene in which Harriet Tubman encouraged our heroes to rob a church of its tithes? Further, Tubman’s near constant presence in Ohio this season is not historically accurate. And last night our heroes got into a full-scale battle with a Kentucky militia unit (or perhaps they were just slave patrollers) and yet they too escaped unscathed back into Ohio. About the only realistic thing that happened in the last episode was that our heroes that were left behind in Ohio (while the others were in KY) all got captured. (Setting up a cliff hanger).  Still, I can’t get too down on a show that has so many people looking at the enslaved with new eyes (delivering a powerful blow to the Lost Cause), and which appears to be headed toward the immediate events that led to the Civil War. Stay tuned for season three!

And speaking of the Civil War: The Jefferson Davis statue in New Orleans finally came down, and I love how Kevin Levin over on Civil War Memory pointed out that it appears that Davis has once again been hauled away wearing a skirt. Haha. Kidding aside though, my sentiments about these removals are on record (I am against it, but it is a local decision and is NOT “erasing” history), but when I see a video like this, (warning: rough language) I can’t help but feel they are doing the right thing.

And what the heck is this? Colonial Williamsburg has added Carly Fiorina to its Board of Trustees (yes, that Carly Fiorina). Does this mean the interpretation there (which is already changing drastically and in questionable ways) will become more conservative and/or politicized? Is she just trying to get more engrained in the Virginia community to test the waters for a senate run? Or does it mean nothing? Stay tuned.


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