Monday, March 30, 2009

As sesquicentennial approaches, old and new Souths debate promotion of Confederate history

"With the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War coming up in 2011, efforts are underway in statehouses, small towns and counties across the South to push for proclamations or legislation promoting Confederate history," reports Dahleen Glanton of the Los Angeles Times. But an updated, romanticized view of the Confederacy is a tough sell for Southerners concerned about its affiliation with slavery.

Confederate history is recognized throughout the South, with Confederate Memorial Day observances. (Texas and Arkansas mark it the same day as the federal holiday for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.) According to Charles McMichael, commander in chief of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, "More than a thousand municipalities hold parades and festivals on the holiday and efforts are underway to spread it nationwide, state by state."

In recent years some have tried to make the Confederacy appear more multicultural, noting that blacks, Latinos and Jews fought for it. But many still see it as the embodiment of slavery. "To say that it is not racist but about multiculturalism is an attempt to adopt a modern mind-set," Jonathan Sarris, associate professor of history at North Carolina Wesleyan College, told Glanton. "You can call it a victory for the forces of multiculturalism when even the defendants of the Confederacy feel they have to pay some lip service to the idea of tolerance." (Read more)

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