Oh boy did this week readings provide a reaction. The Confederates in the Attic written by Tony Horwitz tells the story how people felt in the south today about the civil war and segregation. Their interpretation is completely different than that of the Yankee. Another interpretation is how National Parks Services differ from southern US states and also different from education. Each interpretation has value, but is it accurate?
Horwitz book did not have any footnotes or bibliographies which means we cannot trace any sort of historical accuracy of his sources except perhaps acknowledgements. It would require a lot of digging to find out all the oral histories. Nonetheless the book provides colorful descriptions about how southerners felt about the war. The author goes on a big traveling tour and meet all kinds of people to help him write his book. One person he found at the Lee-Jackson party. On page 35 Tarlton says “Bunch of dirt poor farmers, most folk around here… didn’t own any slaves. He adds “The way I saw it… They [Confederate army] were fighting for their honor as men.” Horwitz then found a Charleston man like himself named Westendorff. Westendorff gave his own view how of slaves lived. “Slave quarters were called carriage houses.” (Page 61). That just the way it was.
One of my favorite parts of the book was the statue in North Carolina. The author meet up with Ward and they had a discussion about the statue. “He don’t look right.” said Ward (page 73) The statue is supposed to be a confederate troop, but it turns out to be a Yankee in confederate clothing. “Its like being told there is no Santa Clause.” Which is such a interesting anecdote. The town Kingstree decided to leave it up in case of taking it down causes more pubic stir. Walt is the last interesting character who is part of the “National Alliance, a Neo Nazi group” (page 82). His thoughts were the most vivid in his book perhaps too vivid. Something that National Park Services NPS could get in trouble for.
The NPS under went many changes making themselves split away from normal history education. Director Horace Albright sent Verne E. Chatelain to a new way of doing history. This new history will be more research intensive than the educational school, but NPS should still be set up like a classroom. Chatelain’s successor Historian Ronald F. Lee takes this process further with new approach to interpreting history. His thought we should use all American history themes to tell our stories of National Parks. The main difference is using primary material to talk about the parks.
This question applies to everyone because we all spread history about our families to new family members. Often times, people see rich white aristocrats tell history because their belongs were not demolished and the fact that most rich white males are congressmen. Other histories are pushed aside to make room for main stream history about the framers of the constitution. Its important that historians work with minority groups so we can learn their history and understand marginalized groups better.
It can be extremely difficult to talk with such groups about sensitive historical topics such as the Vietnam War, and Slavery. The impact on these events so big that we hear people still discussing that past today. Sometimes the impact has a reverse effect. In Presence of the Past pine ridge Sioux tribe don’t celebrate 4th July because its the start of their destruction page 168. When Lincoln is taught in schools teachers don’t talk about him condemning 24 Indians and having them hung. The federal government’s ethnic cleansing stirred emotions it should not have stirred. One Pine Ridge Sioux Tribe member said to an Interviewer “I want to kill you.” Page 169. Its easy to spot the difference of how history is told between the two groups.
African Americans have a different history than Indians do, but both can be secptatible to public education’s white history. Young African Americans get to hear stories of their grandparents that were slaves. African Americans also rate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr as the number 1 most important historical figure during the survey of Presence of the Past Page 171. That’s because the death Dr. King Jr. lead to the civil rights act in 1964. Yet, W. U De Bois fighting the system before Dr. King Jr. De Bois talks about having one foot in both white and black world because he is a mix of the two (Page 172). African Americans sometime struggle to identify with De Bois because De Bois thoughts are complex and difficult to understand.
Another struggle is to decide who should set up museums for particular groups? Should it be Historians or the people? An example of this can be found in Thomas Cauvin’s Public History: A Textbook Practice page 224. A Canadian War Museum was built to honor the Canadians who fought in WW2, but there was an issue of who was going to be displaying the history. Should the veterans or the Historians set up the Museum? The ideal is for both parties to work together, but that might not always be realistic. Another way could be to let the veterans set it up displays while the curator can assist them in showing them the best places the displays can go.