Historians Add Contest to Gettysburg Sites at Day of Action

Pat Young

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Well the New York Times did not interview me at the Historians Day of Action at Gettysburg, but the Gettysburg Times did! I am about two-thirds of the way down.

Image removed for possible copyright violation.

https://www.facebook.com/lauris.wre...lIolvlIcKdhQEkwfOuuo1TYI7C7HHotc&__tn__=-]K-R
Rally for more history held on battlefield

Historians and local residents gathered outside the Eternal Light Peace Memorial in Gettysburg on the Civil War History Day of Action Saturday.
At the first Civil War History Day of Action, residents and historians asked a simple question. What could possibly be wrong with more history?
A little more than three dozen Adams County residents and historians from surrounding areas gathered near landmarks at the Gettysburg National Cemetery Saturday. Led by Scott Hancock, Gettysburg College Africana Studies professor, they stood armed with signs meant to highlight what they called historically-problematic representations of the Confederacy.
“At Gettysburg, arguably a turning point in the war, you see more commemorations of the Confederacy than you do showing that this war led to emancipation and ended slavery,” Hancock said. “It didn’t solve our problems by a long shot, as we know, but our goal is to do something a bit more constructive about telling a fuller story.”
The event’s proximity to Sept. 22, the day President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, was intentional, Hancock said. The organization plan indicated the aim was to “emancipate the battlefield from biased history that sanitizes and glorifies the Confederacy’s fight to keep four million African Americans enslaved.”
If the model seems similar to a protest led by Hancock on July 4, that is intentional.
This summer, on the same day armed visitors arrived to the battlefield in an attempt to derail a since debunked Antifa flag-burning threat, Hancock and four other men challenged Confederate apologist viewpoints, displaying signs with pointed pro-slavery references from popular southern newspapers and magazines from the era.
On Saturday, citizens stood in front of the Eternal Light Peace Memorial and Gen. Robert E. Lee’s headquarters in Gettysburg with a similar goal in mind.
This time, though, an organized effort encouraged dozens of groups across the country to do the same on battlefields and public spaces where emancipation and Reconstruction might be considered to be concealed or neglected. Groups at each site took photographs and posted to social media under the hashtag #WeWantMoreHistory.
Journal of the Civil War Era Co-Editors Gregory Downs and Kate Masur, history professors at U.C. Davis and Northwestern University respectively, as well as the magazine’s digital editor, Hilary Green, an Alabama University history professor, played a role in organizing the event.
Downs, who attended Gettysburg’s event Saturday, said Hancock’s confrontation by visitors defending the confederacy’s stance as a fight for states’ rights motivated his involvement.
Historians have always had to defend against propaganda campaigns to deliberately erase African American histories, among others, Downs said.
“Historians are deeply imperfect on this issue and have been wrestling with it for decades,” he said. “You can see public interest starting to shift over the last 10 years. Scott really challenged all of us to think beyond the institutional way we do this.”
Jill Titus, the associate director of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College, said to understand the past it is necessary to consider stories that challenge traditional narratives.
“This is a way to advocate for a more nuanced understanding of history,” she said. “When we rely on overly simplistic narratives of the past, we have no way to understand why the present is so complicated.”
Monuments help visitors visualize the battlefield as it was. But setting early versions of history in stone insinuate permanence, making it difficult to overturn these narratives when later proven insufficient. There are layers to history, Titus said, and challenging dominant narratives is nothing new.
Mythologizing the past is largely unhelpful, she said, though she understands why more simple narratives may be appropriate as building blocks for education.
“There’s so much in the past that we can respect, honor and can inspire us in the present,” she said. “But we should never seek to mythologize what’s come before, but rather understand it in all its complexity. If we don’t, we warp our understanding of how we became who we are.”
Patrick Young, co-director of the Immigration Clinic at Hofstra University School of Law who traveled from Long Island, N.Y., held a sign with a quote from Georgian and former Confederate Maj. Gen. John B. Gordon.
In 1868, Gordon spoke in Charleston to a largely white audience with recently freed black citizens among the crowd.
“I was opposed to your freedom. We were opposed to your freedom. We did not do this because we were your enemies, but because we had bought you and paid our money for you,” Gordon said during his speech, receiving laughter and applause.
“That was supposed to be the reconciliation he offered,” Young said.
Gordon is now widely accredited as the founder of the Ku Klux Klan, Young said. He also became a Redeemer, a political coalition that sought political power to re-enforce white supremacy.
“People are taught about the KKK as if they were some crazy people on the outskirts of society, but if you look at first Ku Klux Klan almost all of them were Confederates and Confederate officers carrying on the war by other means,” Young said. “If you say you want American history, you have to look at American history. If you want fantasy, a sundae with a cherry on top, I don’t have that much sympathy if you call that history.”
Dana Schoaf, editor of the Civil War Times, stopped during a bike ride through the battlefield to discuss the event with Hancock. He did not wish to see monuments removed on the battlefield, but said they should be recontextualized.
“It’s important to tell the African American story here, in addition to the story of the battle,” he said.
Former Gettysburg College President Janet Riggs participated in the event as well.
She said she felt called as a former educator and a 39-year representative of the Gettysburg community to take a stand.
“I’m not a historian, but i know there are big gaps here and I think everyone would agree it’s good to have more history,” she said. “If being here today helps with that, I’m really happy to support this effort.”
 
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A. Roy

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Interesting article, Pat -- thanks for posting that. I thought these were useful comments:

Jill Titus, the associate director of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College, said to understand the past it is necessary to consider stories that challenge traditional narratives. “This is a way to advocate for a more nuanced understanding of history,” she said. “When we rely on overly simplistic narratives of the past, we have no way to understand why the present is so complicated.” ... There are layers to history, Titus said, and challenging dominant narratives is nothing new... “There’s so much in the past that we can respect, honor and can inspire us in the present,” she said. “But we should never seek to mythologize what’s come before, but rather understand it in all its complexity. If we don’t, we warp our understanding of how we became who we are.”

I wish there was more of this kind of thinking, rather than just rashly tearing down historical objects. Unfortunately, many people today are too driven by fury to think about how new layers might be added to provide a deeper and more nuanced presentation of history.

Roy B.
 

uaskme

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I think More History is Good. Gettysburg might want to build a Interpretation Center like the new one at Corinth. I visited there last week during the Shiloh Muster. Here is something I saved about the Interpretation of Slavery.

DA0DFE43-D9A3-48CE-9BA8-092ED3AE8918.jpeg


KKK is during Reconstruction. Might we add information about the Yankee led Federal Governments Race War against the Native Americans. The Anti Coolie Clubs and Racism about the Chinese. Also the Retreat from Reconstruction even by the majority of Radical Republicans who concludes that Southern Whites were more capable than Blacks to lead the South. An Endorsement of White Supremacy. Yes, I think so.
 

A. Roy

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a quote from Georgian and former Confederate Maj. Gen. John B. Gordon.
In 1868, Gordon spoke in Charleston to a largely white audience with recently freed black citizens among the crowd.
“I was opposed to your freedom. We were opposed to your freedom. We did not do this because we were your enemies, but because we had bought you and paid our money for you,” Gordon said during his speech, receiving laughter and applause.
“That was supposed to be the reconciliation he offered,” Young said.

I had never heard this astonishing story before!

Roy B.
 

John Hartwell

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I think More History is Good. Gettysburg might want to build a Interpretation Center like the new one at Corinth. I visited there last week during the Shiloh Muster. Here is something I saved about the Interpretation of Slavery.

View attachment 376460

KKK is during Reconstruction. Might we add information about the Yankee led Federal Governments Race War against the Native Americans. The Anti Coolie Clubs and Racism about the Chinese. Also the Retreat from Reconstruction even by the majority of Radical Republicans who concludes that Southern Whites were more capable than Blacks to lead the South. An Endorsement of White Supremacy. Yes, I think so.
No argument with that. Northern racism is no better than southern racism. In fact, as often as you belabor this point, I don't see anybody here contradicting you.
 

jcaesar

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This summer, on the same day armed visitors arrived to the battlefield in an attempt to derail a since debunked Antifa flag-burning threat, Hancock and four other men challenged Confederate apologist viewpoints, displaying signs with pointed pro-slavery references from popular southern newspapers and magazines from the era.
On Saturday, citizens stood in front of the Eternal Light Peace Memorial and Gen. Robert E. Lee’s headquarters in Gettysburg with a similar goal in mind.
This time, though, an organized effort encouraged dozens of groups across the country to do the same on battlefields and public spaces where emancipation and Reconstruction might be considered to be concealed or neglected. Groups at each site took photographs and posted to social media under the hashtag #WeWantMoreHistory.

I decided to take a ten second look on twitter on their hashtag listed about it. Lee liked slavery and was forced to give up his slaves?

After watching some of the videos I favor a hashtag #WeWantBetterHistory.
 

jcaesar

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As every slaveowner, North or South, who didn't willingly emancipate his slaves, was forced to give them up.

Based on the letters and correspondence that General Adams dug up quite a few years after the war he did free all of his slaves in 1862 though more then a few were in areas occupied by the Union at the time.

This letter was the 1913 gift to the Massachusetts Historical Society from the president of the Society, Charles Francis Adams, Jr. (1835-1915). Adams, the grandson and great-grandson of presidents of the United States, had fought in the Civil War as a Union cavalry officer. He rose to the brevet rank of brigadier general and commanded an African-American regiment, the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry.

Although he led forces in the field against the Army of Northern Virginia (or perhaps because he had), Adams became a great admirer of Robert E. Lee and gave a series of addresses in the first years of the twentieth century that fostered national reconciliation by celebrating Lee not simply as a great soldier, but as a great American.
 

John Hartwell

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Based on the letters and correspondence that General Adams dug up quite a few years after the war he did free all of his slaves in 1862 though more then a few were in areas occupied by the Union at the time.
I'll give him credit for fulfilling the terms of his father-in-laws' will by manumitting the Custis slaves ... a few days before the EP would have freed them anyway. And, true, he was not forced to do so.
 
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