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Slavery And Justice: What Brown University Has Taught Me About Public History, Jacob Dinkelaker Jun 2011

Slavery And Justice: What Brown University Has Taught Me About Public History, Jacob Dinkelaker

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

In the post today, I want to add to that debate by discussing Brown University’s Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice. John recently turned me on to this, and while I still haven’t read the whole report (available in pdf), I’m really impressed by what I’ve read so far. For those of you who are not familiar with the report, I highly recommend it - it is very insightful. The Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice report documents Brown University’s public struggle with its historic foundations which, are tied inextricably to the economics of slavery and ...


Interpreting Beyond The Battles: Could We Start With The Klan?, John M. Rudy Jun 2011

Interpreting Beyond The Battles: Could We Start With The Klan?, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

In 1925, the Pennsylvania Klan held its annual convention in Gettysburg in September. The Times called the Klan's parade through town a, "gorgeous display," and a, "monster procession." The Times headline trumpeted that, "vary-colored robes, capes and gowns present spectacle as Knights, Klanswomen and Junior Members march under warm September sun before large crowds along sidewalks." [excerpt]


"For The People...": Do The 'Not We' Own Gettysburg?, John M. Rudy Jun 2011

"For The People...": Do The 'Not We' Own Gettysburg?, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

Unlike a few critics from the Civil War blogging community of this past Monday's History Channel presentation of Gettysburg, I watched the whole thing from beginning to end. I've since watched it again. I took mental notes; I paid keen attention.

Monday night I also watched on Twitter. I expected the experience to be very different than a couple weeks ago, when I watched with America as freedom fighters were beat to a bloody pulp for suggesting that we all might be better off if we tried to get along. Not badly different, just different. I was not ...


"...Never Forget What They Did Here": Memorial Day 2011, John M. Rudy May 2011

"...Never Forget What They Did Here": Memorial Day 2011, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

One of my pleasures on this holiday is to buy and place a flag on the monument to the 14th U.S. Regulars in the valley of death. Along the banks of Plum Run, the Regulars held back an onslaught from a pell-mell group of charging Confederates in what would be the final phase of the fight in the Wheatfield and Devil's Den area on July 2nd, 1863. As they retreated back across the swampy lowlands, Confederates hot on their heels, their own gunners on the slopes of the hill had no choice but to fire into the mangled ...


Empathizing With The Slave; Empathizing With The Slave-Owner, John M. Rudy May 2011

Empathizing With The Slave; Empathizing With The Slave-Owner, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

Living inside of the world of the past is often the most difficult thing an interpreter can help her audience to do. But, in spite of its difficulty, it is the most necessary. The adage that before you insult a man, you must walk a mile in his shoes is correct. [excerpt]


Civil War Conclusions: What Pbs' Freedom Riders Can Teach Us, John M. Rudy May 2011

Civil War Conclusions: What Pbs' Freedom Riders Can Teach Us, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

We often have a deep problem in the Historical community. We that have gone through training and courses in "real" history, who have been trained in the academy don't know how to react when we get into the "public" history world. We step out on battlefields (or killingfields) and decide we can't trust our audiences to understand our evidence. So, we hit them over the head with a two-by-four of rhetoric. We have this deep impulse to tell people what to think about what they see on our landscapes.


How To Sap The Romance: America's National Killingfield Parks, John M. Rudy May 2011

How To Sap The Romance: America's National Killingfield Parks, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

"Maybe they should call them Killingfields instead of Battlefields..." [excerpt]


One Sunday In America: Echoes Of John Brown, John M. Rudy May 2011

One Sunday In America: Echoes Of John Brown, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

I had just walked into the house Sunday night and turned on the television, intent on going to bed early for a change. It was a little after 10pm. CNN was announcing that a speech dealing with a grave national security by the President was imminent in just a few minutes. Wolf Blitzer expounded how the Sunday address was unprecedented and telegraphed that it was big news. But no one knew the topic. [excerpt]


How To Interpret History To The Sci-Fi Fan: My Favorite Civil War Novel, John M. Rudy Apr 2011

How To Interpret History To The Sci-Fi Fan: My Favorite Civil War Novel, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

I often struggled to find an answer to the comment often leveled by visitors that, "they were so backward back then," or that, "we know so much more now." Getting across the fact to visitors that much of science, especially the basics of Newtonian physics and electromagnetic, has been understood at their elemental level for generations is sometimes a tough order of business. I found myself at times trying to explain Alessandro Volta's invention of the Voltaic battery in 1800 or the use of the Turtle during the American Revolution. Still, compared to the explosions over Hiroshima and Nagasaki ...


Coda: Henry Wise's Peculiar Property, John M. Rudy Apr 2011

Coda: Henry Wise's Peculiar Property, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

Slaves belonging to Henry A. Wise, Princess Anne County, Virginia.


Governor Wise's War: Burn Notice (Part 3), John M. Rudy Apr 2011

Governor Wise's War: Burn Notice (Part 3), John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

The early teens of April seem to have been specifically engineered by Ex-governor Wise and some of the members of the Secession convention jonesing for separation of from the Union. A notice ran in the Alexandria Gazette on April 1st, declaring that on the 16th of that month a, "grand Secession demonstration," would be held in Richmond. Among those signing the notice was Henry Wise. The Gazette reported that, first news of it came from Norfolk," just a stones throw from Wise's home in Princess Anne County. "Perhaps they think the Convention too slow," the Gazette presumed, "and wish ...


Governor Wise's War: Loose Lips (Part 2), John M. Rudy Apr 2011

Governor Wise's War: Loose Lips (Part 2), John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

When last we left Ex-Governor Henry Wise, he was exceedingly impatient at the Virginia secession convention's failure to act immediately and swiftly after the firing on Fort Sumter. The power broker who had stared down John Brown now called upon personal loyalties to get the job done where politics had failed. An account by John Imboden has the Governor querying the future Brigadier General, asking whether he remembered the charge Wise made upon presenting two brass cannon to a Staunton militia unit. Imboden recalled the Governor had told him, "he was bound to obey the call of Wise for ...


Hymn To Freedom: Obama's 150th Proclamation, John M. Rudy Apr 2011

Hymn To Freedom: Obama's 150th Proclamation, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

This post is about the President's proclamation on Tuesday. I was heartily pleased by this action from the White House. It phrasing brings to mind an intellectual fusion not unlike that crafted through Daniel Webster's 1830 pronouncement of, "Liberty and Union, Now and Forever, One and Inseparable." Certainly the 19th century conception of Liberty and our modern conception of the term, as adeptly pointed out in the most recent episode of Backstory with the American History Guys, are not the same. Still, Obama's proclamation keenly joins the two Northern war aims and war outcomes at the hip ...


Governor Wise's War: My Misconception (Part 1), John M. Rudy Apr 2011

Governor Wise's War: My Misconception (Part 1), John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

I worked in the living history branch at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park for three years, wearing old timey clothing and talking to visitors about the meanings of John Brown. Harpers Ferry is where I began to understand what the concept of interpretation means, and how it is such a radically different concept from academic history. [excerpt]


The Civil War Centennial: Inspiration For The Civil Rights Movement?, John M. Rudy Mar 2011

The Civil War Centennial: Inspiration For The Civil Rights Movement?, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

I read Richard Williams' Old Virginia Blog, not because I agree with what he has to say but explicitly because it gets me so corking mad. Interspersed with tea party rants and modern political diatribes, Williams is an interesting (and sometimes frightening) voice of modern Confederatism and Southern exceptionalism.


"...The Way Things Were Back Then": Why Making Excuses For Slavery Doesn't Work, John M. Rudy Mar 2011

"...The Way Things Were Back Then": Why Making Excuses For Slavery Doesn't Work, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

Presentism. Aside from historical revisionism, it is perhaps the 'epithet' with which the modern historian find themselves branded the most. I've been reading again a series of screeds by Bill Vallante, a Confederate reenactor and SCV member from Commack, NY (thanks to John Hennessy). I've read these pages before, but this time around was struck by the abject vitriol which oozes from the language employed. A line in one piece in particular stood out to me as quite angry:

"Add a heavy dose of presentism (judging or interpreting the past according to the standards of the present), mix ...


The Rebel Flag: Offputting Symbol Or Point Of Pride?, John M. Rudy Mar 2011

The Rebel Flag: Offputting Symbol Or Point Of Pride?, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

In 2004, Gettysburg College hosted an art exhibit by John Sims, a Florida based artist and ethnomathematician. The exhibit focused on varied recolored versions of the Confederate Flag. The press outrage was quick and damning. I should know, I was quoted in it (in the Civil War News).

Back in 2004, I called the exhibit, "sickening," and condemned the college for, "trying to distance itself from the town by rejecting the Civil War past in which it is steeped." I was wrong. I figured that out no sooner than passing through the doors of the art gallery and viewing the ...


On Dogs And Ponies And 'Three Days In July' Syndrome (Part 2), John M. Rudy Mar 2011

On Dogs And Ponies And 'Three Days In July' Syndrome (Part 2), John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

What happened in Chambersburg and Fairfield in April of 1861? Certainly not events which were earth shattering for the nation as a whole. But to the citizens of the bustling southern Pennsylvania urban centers, it was their world. [excerpt]


Youtube Wednesday: Why I'M Celebrating The Civil War 150th (And Why You Should Too), John M. Rudy Mar 2011

Youtube Wednesday: Why I'M Celebrating The Civil War 150th (And Why You Should Too), John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

There's quite a bit of talk within the interpretive community about the word, "celebration." The word is tiptoed around and eschewed. Its use raised ire in Charleston Harbor this past December. These debates over commemoration versus celebration, no doubt, will crop up again and again over the next few years. We, as a community, are nearly afraid of one misstep. We catch our words as they escape our mouths, quickly correcting ourselves every time "celebration" accidentally emerges trips over our teeth. We seem afraid to say that we are celebrating an American bloodbath of biblical proportions. I can understand ...


On Dogs And Ponies And 'Three Days In July' Syndrome (Part 1), John M. Rudy Mar 2011

On Dogs And Ponies And 'Three Days In July' Syndrome (Part 1), John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

In 1961, Gettysburg played host to a kick-off event for the Civil War Centennial. The town commemorated the sendoff of the Independent Blues, a militia company which marched off to war in the aftermath of the firing on Fort Sumter. The affair was huge. The Diamond was closed off to traffic as actors in old time clothes strutted through a political rally on the square. Spectators watched from the sidewalks as speakers mounted a wagon and gesticulated wildly at the crowd. Gettysburg College's students, wielding trumpet and drum as they did for Football games on Nixon Field, stood in ...


Montgomery: The Murals In The Dome, John M. Rudy Feb 2011

Montgomery: The Murals In The Dome, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

A broad sweeping portico looms behind the gay couple riding horses on a summer's afternoon. The man wears a brown coat and tall black top hat. The woman dresses in the finery of the turn-of-the-century. A hunting dog stands at attention as the horses stride across the plantation's spacious lawn. Back on the porch, a black "mammy" figure watches over a young girl. [excerpt]


Montgomery: Jeff Davis' Seal Of Solomon, John M. Rudy Feb 2011

Montgomery: Jeff Davis' Seal Of Solomon, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

Set into the marble steps of Alabama's Capitol building is a brass star. Gleaming against the white stone, the star stands at the top of the stairs on the Capitol's west face. The star reads, "Placed by Sophie Bibb Chapter Daughters of the Confederacy on the spot where Jefferson Davis stood when inaugurated President of C.S.A. Feb. 16. 1861." [excerpt]


Why It's Interpretive: Bid 'Em In, John M. Rudy Feb 2011

Why It's Interpretive: Bid 'Em In, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

Browsing the provocative blog "Jubilo! The Emancipation Century" recently, I came upon a post featuring a curious YouTube video.

So why did Bid 'Em In speak so deeply to me? I think it's because it places you in the shoes of the 15 year old slave woman being auctioned. It's not an intellectual investigation of slavery. It's not an historical narrative written after the fact of a particular event. It's visceral. [excerpt]


Lee Chapel: Lost Cause Artifact And Culture Shock, John M. Rudy Feb 2011

Lee Chapel: Lost Cause Artifact And Culture Shock, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

I had the privilege to accompany a group of undergraduate students recently on a whirlwind tour of the Wilderness, Richmond and Appomattox. Our tour took us along the I-81 corridor on the way back to Gettysburg, so why not stop in Lexington for a Civil War two-fer. [excerpt]


"And You May Ask Yourself: Am I Right? Am I Wrong?", John M. Rudy Feb 2011

"And You May Ask Yourself: Am I Right? Am I Wrong?", John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

This blogging endeavour is dangerous. Blogging, I believe, should be a personal medium, where you wear your heart on your sleeve and let the real "you" hang out. That's scary. [excerpt]


Slavery And Justice Today, Jacob Dinkelaker Jun 2001

Slavery And Justice Today, Jacob Dinkelaker

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

'doubleshotcanister' makes a great point about being ever mindful of our present connections to past historical atrocities, crimes against humanity, and the other not-so-shining moments of our country's history. I agree with him. Not only do we have to come clean about our nation's past history - equally laying out the bad and good to find a useable past, but also to be cognizant of our decisions and actions today. [excerpt]