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After reading Gary Gallagher’s book, I grew more curious about the Lincoln statue controversy. Gary Gallagher details in Causes Won, Lost & Forgotten how many southerners rose up in opposition to a statue depicting Abraham Lincoln and his son Tad in Richmond, Virginia – the former capital of the Confederacy. Supporters of the statue argued that including it at Richmond was a: “historical symbol of unity and reconciliation.”[1] The Sons of Confederate Veterans considered the statue to be “a slap in the face of a lot of brave men and women who went through four years of unbelievable hell fighting an invasion led by President Lincoln.”[2] Protestors of the Lincoln statue held up signs depicting Lincoln on a wanted poster and others comparing Lincoln to Hitler, Bin Laden, and other war criminals.[3] There was even a small plane with a banner with Sic Semper Tyrannis written on it. John Wilkes Booth uttered these words shortly after fatally shooting Lincoln.[4]

Abraham Lincoln has long been considered a divisive figure to southerners. When Lincoln traveled to Richmond, the city was still aflame from the Union capture and hostile Confederates were still nearby as Lincoln and his 12 year old son toured the city.[5]

In opposition to the statue, the Sons of Confederate Veterans would also sponsor a symposium where scholars critical of Lincoln were invited to discuss their negative views of him. [6] It is difficult to believe that Lincoln is still treated with such animosity nearly 150 years after his death. There have always been claims that when Lincoln was assassinated Southerners remarked that his death was the “Worst thing for the South” and this is echoed in Gallagher where he states that Lincoln desired an easy transition for the South in returning to the Union.[7] I was under this belief. That Lincoln’s death was met with great sadness in the North as well as the South. Is the hatred that the SCV has shown towards Lincoln misdirected? Further, is the SCV so fanatic that they will lash out publicly against anything representing Non-Confederates? What can we learn from this controversy and as teachers should we lend credence to Southern sympathies?


[1] Gary W. Gallagher. Causes Won, Lost, & Forgotten: How Hollywood and Popular Art Shape What We Know About the Civil War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008), 209.

[2] Gallagher, 211.

[3] Gallagher, 212.

[4] Gallagher, 212.

[5] Frank James “Lincoln Statue Fuels Controversy”. The Baltimore Sun, March 13, 2003. http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2003-03-13/news/0303130338_1_lincoln-statue-president-abraham-lincoln-richmond [Accessed July 4, 2012].

[6] Ibid.

[7] Gallagher, 212.

New York City Draft Riots

In March 1863, the United States legalized a strict draft law. For the first time, the Federal government would require all men from the ages of 20 to 35 to enter into a lottery that determined who would join the Armed Forces of the Union.[1] Anti-draft newspapers promptly responded with articles attacking the law and the practice of a draft lottery.  Many of the wealthier individuals were able to forego their draft if they could pay somebody to fight for them. This practice was particularly despised as it was a prime example of corruption.[2]

With the recent Emancipation Proclamation, Democratic opponents in New York declared that white men were being sold out in favor of freed blacks -that they were losing their political and economic advantage. They played on the fears of their white constituents that freed blacks would pose a threat to the labor market and the availability of jobs. Because of this, riots began that targeted African-Americans living in New York City. Initially the rioters targeted military and government buildings.  However, on the afternoon of the first day they began attacking African-Americans. By the end of the five days of rioting, 11 Black men were lynched and numerous businesses catering to blacks as well as their homes were lost.[3]

These riots were popularized in the film Gangs of New York (2002). However, despite what the film depicts the draft riots did not reach the notorious Five Points region of New York City.  As with many films that relate historical events – the writers embellished a great deal. These riots did have a profound impact on the New York City landscape as many of the images show.

Despite the violent reaction of New Yorkers to the draft, the draft would continue and remains a practice of the United States Government to this day. Learning from the lessons of the Civil War, paid substitutions were no longer allowed and several exemptions were allowed.  Since the Civil War, the United States has had drafts for World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Each time the draft has been used numerous protests occur against the action. Other famed protests besides the Civil War Protests are the protests surrounding World War I and the Vietnam War. Today the Armed Forces are made up primarily of volunteers. Though in the last presidential election, there was much discussion about implementing the draft. Is the draft an acceptable means of finding able-bodied soldiers? Do the protesters have a legitimate grievance against forced conscription?


[1] Leslie M. Harris In the Shadow of Slavery: African Americans in New York City, 1626-1863. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003) http://press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/317749.html [Accessed June 28, 2012]

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

As we have studied, the basis for the Civil War was rooted in the practice of slavery and the desire of some states to see the practice continue and other states seeing slavery as a threat. One of our recent readings in class discussed how the National Park Service including a focus on slavery appalled many Southern White Americans.[1] Many white southerners believe that Confederate Battlefields should be devoted to the living memory of those that lost their lives in the Civil War and furthering the “Lost Cause” myth. In the reading, one common fear of white southerners is that political correctness is out of control and that they do not desire to learn about slavery while they are visiting a Civil War Battlefield and Memorial.[2] I thought I would learn more about this controversy and found the following video posted on cwmemory.com.[3]  In the following video, park rangers discuss the cause of the Civil War and the challenges they face in introducing the causes of the Civil War on Civil War Battlefields.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OrFtW3AouOc&feature=player_embedded

Many of the park rangers feel that interpreting the reasons for the Civil War and conveying them to park visitors is an important tool in understanding the memory of why these soldiers fought each other and died. Some have even given ideas in which the two sides of this controversy can resolve their issues. In trying to come up with a resolution to this issue, we discussed two resolutions in class. One resolution was that having museums devoted to separate studies would alleviate the issue. Those that wanted to focus on slavery would be able to visit a slavery museum. While those that wanted to focus on the battles would visit one of the many historic Civil War battlefields. A separate resolution was that museums should have exhibits devoted to all types of history. Those that visited any given museum would see a wide range of exhibits ranging from the Civil War to slavery. With this in mind,  I recently came across an article about a proposed Slavery Museum in Fredericksburg sponsored by L. Douglas Wilder, the first African-American Governor in United States History.[4] This proposed museum is having numerous financial and legal issues and may not be finished.

http://www2.wsls.com/news/2012/jun/21/fredericksburg-questions-slavery-museums-reorganiz-ar-2000798/

After reading the article, the situation in Fredericksburg is looking rather bleak. Does this knowledge add impetus in having a combined museum for the South? Alternatively, should there still be separate museums for Slavery and the Civil War?


[1] Dwight T. Pitcaithley, “A Cosmic Threat: The National Park Service Addresses the Causes of the American Civil War”, In Slavery and Public History: The Tough Stuff of American Memory, ed. James Oliver Horton and Lois E. Horton,168-186. [Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006], 174-175.

[2] Pitcaithley, 175.

[3] “NPS Talks Slavery and Battlefield Interpretation”, Civil War Memory, April 13, 2011, http://cwmemory.com/2011/04/13/nps-talks-slavery-and-battlefield-interpretation/ [Accessed on June 21, 2012]

[4] Steve Szkotak, “U.S. Slavery Museum revises Dept Plan”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, June 21, 2012, http://www2.timesdispatch.com/news/2012/jun/21/fredericksburg-questions-slavery-museums-reorganiz-ar-2000798// [Accessed on June 21, 2012]

In Gone With the Wind, the “Lost Cause” motif is present throughout the film. The author, Melanie Mitchell, admitted that the work was a propaganda piece that was intended to be “the Southern response to Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”* Mitchell depicts life in the South as a paradise for wealthy white southerners on their plantations where blacks were more than happy to take a subservient role to appease their white masters.** The film was given top billing and became one of the most successful films of all time – and remains a classic.*** In adapting the novel to the big screen, many of the more controversial scenes in the book were eliminated and Southern vigilante groups are referred to as “political meetings” in the script – and occur off screen. For a person looking to find an accurate portrayal of the time period – Gone With the Wind is not the place to look.

The National Film Registry at the Library of Congress is responsible for the preservation of films that are deemed to be culturally significant and to ensure their survival for future generations. Among the films enshrined are The Birth of a Nation, which from the Chadwick article we learn is another propaganda film extolling the virtues of the “Lost Cause”, as well as Gone With the Wind. These films are enshrined alongside such films as To Kill a Mockingbird and the biopic Malcolm X.**** However there is one work that is not included in the list – that is Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Since Gone With the Wind was intended to be a Southern propaganda piece meant to retort Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, one may wonder how much acclaim Uncle Tom’s Cabin has received in the community. Uncle Tom’s Cabin saw much of its success in the form of minstrel shows and early silent films. These often had African-Americans depicted by whites wearing blackface and the 1927 silent film version was, at the time, the most expensive silent film made.*****

Gone With the Wind, the “Southern response to Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, is considered a visual masterpiece and remains one of the most successful films of all time. Uncle Tom’s Cabin has not had the same level of success in film. Stowe’s work has had overwhelming success in the literary field but not in the film medium. Why is this? What challenges exist in attempting a modern day adaptation of Stowe’s work?


* Bruce Chadwick, The Reel Civil War: Mythmaking in American Film, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf Publishing, 2001), 211.

** Chadwick, 191.

*** Chadwick, 187.

**** Library of Congress. National Film Registry. http://www.loc.gov/film/registry_titles.php [Accessed on June 13, 2012]

***** Stephen Railton, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin on Film: The Silent Era” , The University of Virginia . http://utc.iath.virginia.edu/interpret/exhibits/utconfilm/utconfilm.html [Accessed on June 14, 2012]