Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Some More Photos

I thought my USB cable for my camera was lost. But I found it, so now I'm catching up on uploading photos. Sadly, when I tried to take pictures of the laser show at Stone Mountain, all I got was a black screen. And to think, I had waited so long for a poignant shot of Elvis gyrating on Robert E. Lee for naught.

At right is a shot of the Confederate flag waving behind the Roswell Mill Worker's monument at the re-dedication ceremony. This trip has probably desensitized me to the sight of the rebel banner. However, a few weeks back at Harvard will probably re-instill a heathy dislike (still, with a more robust understanding) of the flag.

Though larger, the carving at Stone Mountain, at right, is considerably less impressive than Mt. Rushmore. I like Tony Horwitz' description of the rock in Confederates in the Attic best:
"...the figures were shown in profile, in relatively shallow relief, as though a huge Confederate coin had left a fossil-like print in the mountain's face."

And, finally, tomorrow I go home to:

I found this marker at Stone Mountain. I think the idea was to give every state in the Confederacy their little slice of stone --a sort of a rebel/red state walk-of-fame. I'll never know the true intent of these markers, though, because after much searching, I only managed to find Florida and Louisiana. Anyway, While at home I plan to begin the writing part of this project in earnest. I'm a little bit daunted and hardly know where to begin. The process is actually doubly daunting because I'm applying to graduate school this year and want to use a chunk of the thesis as my writing sample. So expect bits and pieces of the paper to emerge on this blog. So I suppose after tomorrow the tenor of this blog will change. There won't be any more travelogue-type updates. There will probably be more postings with analysis and musings.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Saying 'Goodbye' to Atlanta

As my time in Atlanta draws to a close, I am left with some reflections on my project thus far. For comparison purposes, Atlanta and Richmond have served as useful case-studies of the New South and the Old South, respectively. But generally, those stark, cut-and-dried divisions are facile. And Atlanta and Richmond are no exception to the rule of ambiguity.

Atlanta was heralded as the model of the New South by Henry Grady; it was also proclaimed the Imperial City of the Klan. Even as Booker T. Washington was allowed to address racially mixed audiences, Atlanta was also the scene of a bloody race riot in 1906.

But are racial tensions in Atlanta just ancient history?

Well, not exactly. The ouster of Democrat governor Roy Barnes 4 years ago was largely due to his stance on the Georgia state flag. From '56 until Barnes, the flag had been more or less the rebel battle flag.

In garnering the support of "flaggers" (Georgians who would stand on the street and wave the rebel flag), Sonny Perdue won the election and turned Georgia solidly red.

Still, the tensions in Georgia are fundamentally different from those in Richmond. In Georgia, political tensions run down the Atlanta-South Georgia fault line. Many Georgians resent the Northern-ness, the foreign-influence in Atlanta. No doubt race plays a factor for many white, rural Georgians.

Racial tensions are polarizing within Richmond city limits. These have been touched upon earlier in the blog. However, things in Richmond aren't so neatly packaged either. Larger companies are moving into the area, bringing a population indifferent to the area's waspy traditionalism. This trend will only continue as the area continues to gain popularity as a commuter city to Washington.

One of the most striking images I have from Richmond was at the quintessential Old South site: The White House of the Confederacy. The VCU Hospital now snakes completely around the White House and Museum of the Confederacy campus. And those institutions are floudering. There has even been talk of moving the White House (though this is probably just bluster designed to raise awarness and fill coffers). The city has refused to grant the museum signage on the street, so tourist revenue is also down. A piece of the Old South floudering as it struggles to integrate itself into a city increasingly hostile to its legacy.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Publication Help?

After much hand-wringing and mental wrestling I've decided to upload to the blog a paper I wrote a few months ago. Part of me is worried that somehow my ideas will get stolen; but another part of me desperately wants feedback. Since some of the people viewing my blog these days have had success in the world of scholarly publication, I was hoping to benefit from the experience of my readership. So in uploading this paper, I am at once attesting to my faith in humanity not to plagarize my work, and also selfishly hoping that someone out there can help me get this thing in print.

The paper is on motive (yes, in a self-conscious lower-case) --a radical publication produced by the Methodist church. The paper attempts to tie in the demise of the Christian student movement in the Civil Rights era to the radicalization and ultimate demise of the magazine itself. This isn't Civil War related per se, but it does have to do with Christianity, race, and the Civil Rights movement in the South. To my knowledge (acquired through extensive searches), there have never been any scholarly inquiries into this remarkable publication.

Anyway, now I know how Anne Bradstreet must have felt as she was penning "The Author To Her Book." For some reason, blogger doesn't allow me to upload files (either that or I just can't figure out how --a distinct possibility). You can find my paper at


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A (much-anticipated?) Update:

I apologize for my absence. My mother came into town last Friday, so my weekend was spent enjoying her company at both historic sites and retail establishments. Saturday we went to the re-dedication ceremony in Roswell for the mill workers monument. It was a very innocuous affair --the story of the mill workers is so sad and compelling that it would be difficult to have turned the ceremony into a fire-eating screed against the North. Nevertheless, the master of ceremonies did make an almost-predictable reference to Robert E. Lee.

The monument ceremony at Roswell was put on by the local chapter of the SCV. The audience was populated by the “grannies” of the SCV –that is, SCV members that are not interested in pursuing the shrill, populist/nationalist ideology that has begun to pervade the organization’s top leadership. The Southern Poverty Law Center (an anathema to most heritage-types) has published a long and interesting article on the recent changes in the SCV in their magazine Intelligence Report. Here is the link:

Though I’ve heard SCV members disparage the integrity SPLC numerous times (perhaps a kernel of truth exists in some of their claims that the SPLC has its own agenda), some SCV men have begun to question the direction in which their organization has been heading. On Monday I interviewed a longtime SCV member and all-round history buff who said he had his resignation letter penned because he believed that organization was headed in the direction of the Klan. He also told me that entire camps have –forgive the wordplay—seceded from the SCV. Alternative, watered-down heritage groups are popping up across the South.

On Sunday my mom and I hiked up Stone Mountain. I made some attempts at interviewing hikers as they ascended the granite mass. Most said that they never gave a second thought to the carving: they were there to enjoy nature. When pressed, some expressed a distaste for the carving because it spoiled the rock face. Of course, there is selection bias here. I’d expect crunchy hiker-types would have a distaste for the memorial on both environmental and political grounds.

The laser light show was really a post-modern experience. Because I don’t really venerate the three Confederates emblazoned on the rock (Lee, Jackson, Davis), I was surprised to find myself uncomfortable with the irreverent lightshow. Of course, the designer of the show gave a nod to the carving’s historical roots with an image of Lee breaking his sword (a story, as I understand, that never happened). But the patriotic medley following right on the heels of the Dixie medley must have given thoughtful spectators pause. Then again, one of the paradoxes of some die-hard Lost Causers is that they also happen to be the most hawkish and patriotic. So perhaps in the name of entertainment, designers unwittingly created show that was a fairly accurate demonstration of Southern attitudes –from ardent secessionism to ardent patriotism (with the whole unfortunate Jim Crow, KKK thing edited out…)

In one of the stranger moments of the evening (and there were many) I approached a family lying on Confederate beach towels to interview. As I explained myself and my project, I was interrupted by one family member:

“He don’t speak English so good,” the man said of his friend/relative in an unmistakably Mexican accent. Further inquiry into the relationship of new Southerners to the Old South could prove quite interesting.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Roswell. No. Not That Roswell...

Today I was whisked away and taken to Roswell, Georgia. Roswell is a quaint little town just North of Atlanta. Roswell, it seems, has two claims to fame. First, that Teddy Roosevelt's mother was from there and lived in a stately plantation (which now offers tours). The second thing Roswell is famous for (or rather, would like to be famous for) is its mill. Legend has it that during the Civil War, the mill employed female workers making gray cloth for the troops. Well in 1864, Roswell was seized by Union troops who had just crossed the Chattahoochee river. The officer in charge of securing the city reported to Sherman that there were 400 female mill workers. Sherman ordered that the women be arrested and charged with treason because they were producing goods for the CSA. They were marched 12 miles to the train station in Marietta and then shipped North, never to be heard from again.

I was a bit skeptical of this story. I don't need convincing that Sherman was a foul person. But I don't believe that 400 people just disappeared into the mist. I googled it, however, and I found this reputable-seeming website explaning what happened:

However, the article contends that the incident was widely reported on at the time in both the Northern and Southern press. After searching the archives of Harper's Weekly and the New York Times, I could not find any articles whatsoever dealing with the incident.

At any rate, the SCV has dedicated a monument to these lost mill workers in Roswell and I visited it today. My timing couldn't have been better. When I stopped by the Roswell Visitor's Center I found a flier for a re-dedication ceremony for the monument. The ceremony will be held this Saturday. I'm going to attend the ceremony this Saturday. I feel like I sort of lucked out with this one! Where else am I going to find a collection of people that care so much about history, monuments and memory?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A Change of Plans, Perhaps...

It may disappoint some of you to know that I am considering scrapping the Alabama leg of the trip. After speaking with my thesis adviser today, I have come to the conclusion that I might have too much material already to work with. A comparison of Richmond and Atlanta could be a tenable project, but to add Alabama to the mix just doesn't make sense.

Besides, the angle for Richmond and Atlanta is largely the same: how public memory of the Confederacy has changed since the inception of monuments in those cities. Furthermore, Richmond and Atlanta have a special iconic status --Richmond as the capital of the CSA, and Atlanta as the South's most devistated city. Moulton, Alabama has no such reputation. So while I am fascinated by the decision of the Lawrence County Commission to erect a new memorial to the Confederacy, I think it makes sense to drop this part of the project. Still, I might make a few phone calls and just poke around to see what's going on over in Alabama. They actually erected the monument on June 25, but I can't find newspaper record of its unveiling anywhere.

Here is my tentative interpretation of the differing approaches to memorializing in Richmond and Atlanta: Richmond takes its history more seriously than Atlanta. Harsh, I know. Battles are still waged in Richmond over what historical figures constitute heroes (ie, the controversies over the Ashe monument, the Lee mural and the Lincoln statue); race and the legacy of slavery still loom large over local politics (and some politicians successfully play the "race card"). Like every other city in America, Atlanta has its racial tensions. However, in the case of Stone Mountain at least, black/white hostilities are secondary to love of green.

One easy response to this argument is that the physical constitution of these monuments lend themselves to different types of interaction. That is, because Stone Mountain is a mountain, it is more of a natural tourist attraction than, say, Monument Avenue. I am still wrestling with how to deal with this criticism. Of course, a comparison of any two cities is never a controlled experiment. But I still think there must be something to the fact that longtime Atlanta residents think of laser lights and The Charlie Daniels Band when they hear "Stone Mountain." Somehow, those neon lights and an aggressive marketing campaign have blinded people to the mountain's not-so-distant history.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Cyclorama and Oakland Cemetary

Today was just full of historic fun. My friend Jarrett picked me up this morning and we headed off to the Atlanta Cyclorama. You probably haven't heard of a cyclorama before --my understanding is that they fell out of favor in about 1910. The cyclorama is basically a giant circular painting that depicts a scene. In this particular case the scene was the battle of Atlanta. Visitors to the Atlanta Cyclorama are shown a 14-minute introductory video before actually entering the cyclorama itself. The introductory video was of extremely poor quality. It was painfully obvious at times that they were using miniture train models to depict the battle. After suffering through that (or rather, trying to contain our laughter at the hillariously low-budget production), we were escorted into the cyclorama. We sat down on benches. The lights dimmed and the narration started as we began to slowly spin in a circle. It took us a while to get one full cycle around the 'rama because the painting is as large as two football fields.
During our slow revolution, Jarrett and I noticed some interesting things about the narration. First of all, the war was referred to as the "war between the states" --which is a phrase characteristic of Southern sympathizers. It took me a while to finally figure out why this phrase was more palatable to the South than civil war. The idea is that if the conflict was called the "War Between the States" the South is recognized as an equal entity to the North: both are simply "states." But calling the conflict a civil war implies that Southerners were just a bunch of pugnacious rogues trying to break away. I'll let you decide what phrase you feel most accurately characterizes the war. The narrator also had a funny habit of referring to Union troops as "yanks" or "yankees." I didn't hear him call the Confederate troops "rebs," though.
We actually got to have one more spin round the cyclorama. This time, a tour guide spoke about the history of the cyclorama itself. I found this revolution 'round the painting much more interesting than the first. Of course, our trip would not have been complete without visiting the gift shop. Jarrett tirelessly sifted through the various Confederate trinkets to find the true gem of the store: a jaw harp. Unfortunately, the poor quality of the instrument combined with my friend's lack of talent produced a sound you won't likely hear at a dixie jamboree anytime soon.
We then headed over to Oakland Cemetary, the current home of Gone With the Wind author Margaret Mitchell. While the cemetary has notably large African American and Jewish sections, I was primarily interested in the Confederate memorials and markers. Oakland is less well-preserved than its Richmond counterpart, Hollywood Cemetary. Where Hollywood has verdant rolling hills, Oakland has crabgrass, weeds and concrete.

I found this a particularly striking illustration of the different approaches to Civil War memory in Richmond and Atlanta. To be quite reductive, Richmond seems to be more of an "old South" type place: it takes it monuments seriously, it preserves tradition, it honors the dead. Atlanta, on the other hand, seems to be a more "new South" city. Especially in the case of Stone Mountain, the Confederate memorial is subordinated to profit motive. Jarrett, an Atlanta native, had barely even realized that the three huge Confederate generals on the rock face are Lee, Jackson and Davis. This is a testament to the agressive marketing campaign the park has executed. Here, Stone Mountain is most famous for its nighttime laser light show. I would be very surprised if the viewers of the nighttime spectacle realized that for many years Stone Mountain was the meeting place of the Ku Klux Klan and that the mountain itself was donated to Georgia by the Klan grand-wizard.