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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]

The portrayal of Mammy in the movie Gone with the Wind describes a caricature of a slave woman from the South. This caricature is a model for how Americans during the late 1930’s envisioned Civil War era South. The mammy of the movie represented a house slave that was devoted to the plantation mistress. The portrayal of the mammy represented fictional characters in movies and in literature such as in Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Gone with the Wind.  As expressed in the movie, Mammy is a person that acts as a mother figure for Scarlett O’Hara, but is conspicuously absent at other times. When Scarlett visits Rhett Butler in jail, accompaniment by her mammy legitimizes her visit. As Scarlett walks through Atlanta, Mammy serves as her protector, knocking away other Negros in order to make sure her charge is untouched and unharmed. However, as Scarlett goes in to Frank Kennedy’s general store, Mammy stays outside.  She and the other house slaves portrayed ignorant people who live to do their masters bidding, and do not know how to behave until they are told how to behave.

Hattie McDaniel, after playing Mammy in Gone with the Wind, was typecast as a housemaid for many other roles. She was quoted as saying, “Why should I complain about making seven thousand dollars a week playing a maid? If I didn’t I’d be making 7 dollars a week being a maid.”[1]

Americans during the late 1930’s also looked to black characters in negative roles. The musical Porgy and Bess portrayed African Americans living in the slums of Charleston, South Carolina.  The photo of the drunken black man appeared in The New Yorker in 1935. Still held in the grips of the Jim Crow era, African Americans were still being perceived as the fictional Mammie in Gone with the Wind.


[1]Donald Bogle. Toms, coons, mulattoes, mammies, and bucks: An interpretive history of Blacks in American films (New York, NY: Continuum) 1994, accessed from http://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/mammies/ on 6/14/12.  hhttphttp://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/mammies/Co