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Lecture 19: Politics of memory


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Lecture 19

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Lecture 19: Politics of memory

  1. 1. The Politics of History and Memory
  2. 2. Quiz: Answer ONE of the following • According to Judith Giesberg, how did representations of African Americans in the South change in school textbooks from the late 1860s to the late 1870s-80s? What messages did these images communicate? • People are often surprised to discover that the largest cache of important Confederate documents are stored in the National Archives in D.C., not in Richmond or elsewhere in the South. According to Yael Sternhall, why did the federal government initially seek to collect Confederate documents after the war, and how did its aim shift over time?
  3. 3. Charleston church massacre • African Methodist Episcopal Church (Mother Emanuel) • One of the most historically significant black churches in the nation • Congregation dates back to 1816 • Denmark Vesey was a minister there • Independent black churches banned in the 1830s, but members met in secret • On June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof killed Rev. Clementa C. Pinkney, a state senator, along with 8 parishioners Roof was a committed white supremacist who said he hoped to start a race war • Drawn into internet hate groups after the Trayvon Martin shooting; became obsessed with “black on white crime” • June 17 was the day the Vesey insurrection was to start – coincidence? • Had been visiting antebellum and Civil War historical sites before
  4. 4. Mother Emanuel
  5. 5. Clementa Pinckney • From Beaufort, SC • Last name is that of a founding father and early governor of SC (Charles Pinkney). Family had a large plantation in the low country, on the coast. • Clementa Pinckney began preaching at 13; was a minister by 18 • State senator by age 27 • Reflected the tradition of African- American minister-politicians
  6. 6. Roof and Sullivan’s Island
  7. 7. Jefferson Davis Statue on grounds of UT Austin removed August 2015 • Will become part of an educational exhibit in the University’s Dolph Briscoe Center for American History (a museum) • President Gregory Fenves: “While every historical figure leaves a mixed legacy, I believe Jefferson Davis is in a separate category, and that it is not in the university’s best interest to continue commemorating him on our main mall.” • Other sculptures on the mall depicting Confederacy figures, including Robert E. Lee and Confederate Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston, will stay where they are • Is Davis in a “separate category” from these others? How does one draw such distinctions? • Statue of President Woodrow Wilson has been taken in for restoration; will be relocated to an as-yet-unnamed location
  8. 8. “Whose Heritage? Public Symbols of the Confederacy” • Report by the Southern Poverty and Law Center, released April 2016 • Concluded there are more than 1,500 government-backed tributes to the Confederacy in public places, not counting the nearly 2,600 battlefield sites, museums, cemeteries) • Vast majority in the South, but they can be found from California to Massachusetts • 718 monuments and statues • 109 public schools named for Robert E. Lee • 80 counties and cities named for Confederates • 9 official Confederate holidays in six states • 10 U.S. military bases named for Confederates
  9. 9. Robert E. Lee Elementary School, San Diego School named after Lee when it first opened in 1959 to honor him as an “American soldier and educator.” August 2016: Renamed Pacific View Leadership Elementary School. Rep. Lorena Gonzalez (Dem., 80th district): “The flag in particular, and anyone associated with this army, in general, have been associated with intolerance, racism and hate, none of which have a place in our schools. It is also important to note that the area in which the elementary school is located is truly representative of South San Diego—a vibrant, multiethnic community with a strong African- American presence that deserves a school named after someone we can all admire. Robert E. Lee is not that person.” Student population today around 75% Hispanic; only 2.5 percent Caucasian
  10. 10. Army bases named for Confederate Generals • Camp Beauregard, La. • Fort Benning, Ga. • Fort Bragg, N.C. • Fort Gordon, Ga. • Fort A.P. Hill, Va. • Fort Hood, Texas • Fort Lee, Va. • Fort Pickett, Va. • Fort Polk, La. • Fort Rucker, Ala.
  11. 11. SPLC President Richard Cohen on the findings: “Public governmental displays of Confederate monuments and other symbols undermine the promise of equality that’s the basis of our democracy. The argument that these tributes represent Southern ‘heritage’ ignores the heritage of African Americans whose ancestors were enslaved by the millions and later subjected to decades of oppression.” “In many cases, preserving history was not the true goal of these displays. Rather, many of them were part of an effort to glorify a cause that was manifestly unjust – a cause that has been whitewashed by revisionist propaganda that began almost as soon as the Civil War ended. Other displays were intended as acts of defiance by white supremacists opposed to equality for African Americans during the civil rights movement.”
  12. 12. New Orleans • December 2015: City voted to remove four statues: Robert E. Lee (1884), Jefferson Davis (1908), P.T.G. Beauregard (1915), and a tribute to the Crescent City White League (1891) • Ordinance that bans any public display that "honors, praises, or fosters ideologies which are in conflict with the requirements of equal protection for citizens" or "suggests the supremacy of one ethnic, religious, or racial group over any other, or gives honor or praise to any violent actions taken wrongfully against citizens of the city to promote ethnic, religious, or racial supremacy of any group over another." • Mayor Mitch Landrieu to members of the New Orleans City Council: "We have the power and the right to correct these historical wrongs. The monuments do not now nor did they ever reflect the history, strength, richness, diversity and soul” of New Orleans. • Can one correct historical wrongs? • And did not these statues represent a key chapter in the history of N.O.? • Is there a different kind of argument for their removal?
  13. 13. Lee Circle, New Orleans
  14. 14. P.T.G. Beauregard and Jefferson Davis
  15. 15. “Battle of Liberty Place” In 1874, following a contested election in 1872, the Crescent City White League (a KKK type organization, with many former Confederate vets as members) tried to seize control away from the Republican-dominated state government and restore white rule. Event followed on the heals of the horrendous Colfax Massacre of 1873—worst racial violence in Reconstruction. White League attacked a nearly all-black state militia; over 100 black men killed, many after surrendering, including elected officials. Grant sent in troops and restored the Republican government, but it fell two years later when US troops were pulled out following 1876 election.
  16. 16. Monument erected on Canal Street in 1891
  17. 17. Added in the early 1970s in response to protests and demands that the moment be removed: “Although the ‘Battle of Liberty Place’ and this monument are important parts of New Orleans history, the sentiments in favor of white supremacy expressed thereon are contrary to the philosophy and beliefs of present- day New Orleans.”
  18. 18. Battle of Liberty Place Monument, cont. • 1981: Mayor tried to have it removed; blocked by City Council • 1989: Removed, allegedly for safekeeping, while construction was occurring in the vicinity. Not returned by originally stated date. • 1993: movement led by David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, sued for its return. City obliged, but moved the obelisk off Canal Street to Iberville Street. Right: New Orleans police officers restrain Rev. Avery Alexander, longtime civil rights leader and state representative, during a protest at the 1993 rededication ceremonies of the Liberty Monument. Alexander led an effort to disrupt the ceremony.
  19. 19. Jackson Square • Where to draw the line? • What about Andrew Jackson? • Committed Unionist; squashed the SC Nullification movement • But he was also not just a slaveowner, but a slave trader • And he engineered the Trail of Tears, forcing 46K Native Americans off their land
  20. 20. Gallup Polls on the Confederate Flag: 2000 • By 2000, Americans were almost equally divided on whether it’s acceptable for Southern states to fly the flag • 1992: 55% approved, while 40% disapproved. • 2000: 46% approved, while 44% disapproved. • But there was a sharp political divide on the issue • Republicans and independents were much more likely to support flying the flag than Democrats: • Republicans: 55% approved; 32% disapproved • Independents: 47% approved; 42% disapproved • Democrats: 38% approved; 57% disapproved • The political divide would widen further by 2015 • The percentage of Republicans who approved actually rose, while the percentage of Democrats decreased • Republicans: 67% approved; Democrats: 27%
  21. 21. Pew Poll, 2011
  22. 22. Little Rock, Arkansas, 1957
  23. 23. Protesting James Meredith’s entrance into Ole Miss, 1862
  24. 24. Selma March, 1963
  25. 25. Confederate flag and desegregation • 1954: Brown v. Board of Education • 1956: Georgia adopted a new flag with stars and bars • According to a 2000 research report by Georgia Senate, the 1956 flag was adopted in an era when the Georgia General Assembly “was entirely devoted to passing legislation that would preserve segregation and white supremacy.”
  26. 26. New Georgia State flag, as of 2003
  27. 27. Mississippi state flag • Adopted in 1894 • During period when Jim Crow laws were being enacted, and when other states (Florida and Alabama) also adopted flags that incorporated Confederate designs • Four years after Mississippi adopted a new constitution that included literacy tests and poll taxes for voting
  28. 28. Corporate repudiation of the flag • Walmart announced it will no longer sell Confederate flags or merchandise with Confederate flags • “We never want to offend anyone with the products that we offer. We have taken steps to remove all items promoting the confederate flag from our assortment — whether in our stores or on our web site. We have a process in place to help lead us to the right decisions when it comes to the merchandise we sell. Still, at times, items make their way into our assortment improperly — this is one of those instances.” • Amazon, eBay and Sears all announced bans on the sale of Confederate flag merchandise, amid an intensifying national debate over the use of the controversial flag. • Johnna Hoff, an eBay spokesperson, said that the Confederate flag has "become a contemporary symbol of divisiveness and racism." It is banning the sale of Confederate flags and "many items containing this image," Hoff said
  29. 29. California, ahead of the curve… • September 2014: African American CA Senator Isadore Hall III introduced legislation that prohibited state offices or agencies from selling or displaying replicas of the Confederate flag or any items with its image, except those reproduced in a book for educational purposes. • Introduced after his mother (who grew up in the South) was startled to find a replica of Confederate money with an image on the flag in the gift shop.
  30. 30. 2009 Obama laying wreath and Confederate monument in Arlington on Memorial Day • 1900: Congress authorized a special section for Confederate veterans • Tradition that began with Woodrow Wilson, 1914 • 2009: Obama urged to stop the tradition by some historians, including James McPherson • “I don’t think it appropriate for a president to send a wreath honoring a group that tried to break up the United States—especially a president who sees himself in many ways as an heir to Abraham Lincoln.” • Obama decided to continue the tradition, but he also began a new one by honoring African American CW soldiers